Electronic gambling machine (EGMs) use is a significant public health concern in Australia, which leads the world in per capita losses. Expenditure and harm are regressively distributed across local areas, clustering in neighbourhoods of socioeconomic disadvantage and other social stress.

Dr Angela Rintoul (BA, MSoc Sci, VPHTS, DPH)

Findings from an exploratory place-based study of environmental factors that influence gambling consumption in two sites will be presented. The study employed mixed-methods including analysis of administrative data, venue observations, focus groups with local residents and interviews with gamblers, family members and professionals. Site 1 has more than double the rate of machines (4.4 machines/ 1,000 adults) and more than three times the per capita losses ($AU1,358 per adult) than Site 2 (10 machines/1,000 adults, losses of $AU400 per adult).

Social stress is an emerging factor that may explain some of the differences in the use of EGMs between sites. Venues, particularly in Site 1, promoted themselves as ‘family friendly’ by providing and incentives including ‘kids eat free’, children’s loyalty programs and playgrounds. Gamblers reported and researchers observed venues in both Sites failing in their responsibilities to adhere to operator codes of conduct, instead encouraging extended use of machines.

This study has implications for the provision of community amenity by gambling operators as well as industry self-regulation via codes of conduct. Evidence from this study has been reinforced by recent ‘whistleblower’ accounts from within major Australian gambling operators.

Dr Angela Rintoul (BA, MSoc Sci, VPHTS, DPH)

Angela is a Research Fellow at the Australian Gambling Research Centre at the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.

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