New research Deakin University shows that the vast majority of Victorians believe gambling products are harmful and want tougher regulations to reduce their availability.
A study from Deakin's Centre for Population Health Research - published in the Harm Reduction Journal today - surveyed 500 Victorians on their attitudes towards gambling harm and harm reduction strategies.
It found 40 per cent of participants were at some risk of gambling harm, and nearly all agreed more should be done to regulate the gambling industry.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, from Deakin's School of Health and Social Development, said this was the first study of its kind to ask people to rate the perceived harm associated with different types of gambling.
Casinos were deemed to be the most harmful by the surveyed group, closely followed by pokies, then horse racing and sports betting.
"However, despite a perception that pokies were harmful, one in five participants reported gambling on pokies at least monthly," Associate Professor said.
"The same proportion of participants also said they engaged in sports betting at least once per month.
"This suggests that despite community awareness of the potential harms caused by gambling, other factors - such as their convenience, availability and persuasive promotional campaigns - seem to be enticing people to engage with them anyway.
"It's these other factors that need to be addressed more effectively."
Associate Professor Thomas said governments around the country needed to act immediately before the epidemic of gambling promotion spread even further.
"The recent development of new gambling technologies and huge surge in marketing for these products has seen gambling infiltrate all corners of our community like never before," she said.
"This is meeting strong community opposition, and our study shows the public want more to be done."
In particular, Associate Professor Thomas said there was strong support from the surveyed group to:
- Completely ban gambling advertising during children’s viewing hours, during sport matches and at sport venues.
- Reduce the allowed number of pokies in the community and increase the regulation associated with these machines.
- Provide more public education for adults and children about the negative consequences of gambling products.
"Governments have been largely reluctant to implement a comprehensive public health approach to reducing gambling harm, as they have done in other areas like tobacco," Associate Professor Thomas said.
"It simply isn't good enough for the gambling industry and governments to focus on individual responsibility to minimise the harms associated with 'problem gambling'.
"Clearly this strategy hasn't worked to either prevent or reduce the harms associated with gambling products, and we need to see further expansion of evidence-based approaches that can make a real difference."
Associate Professor Thomas said more than three quarters of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with a reduction in the number of pokies in the Victorian community.
"This is at odds with the recent Victorian government announcement to keep the number of pokies in our community the same for the next 25 years," she said.
"High community support for regulating and reducing pokies suggests that governments would be faced with little community opposition to initiatives aiming at reducing their numbers."
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