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National study to examine interactive gambling and link with gambling problems


Dr Gainsbury is available for interview by contacting Sharlene King
28 June 2011
With Australians estimated to have spent $968 million on illegal online gambling in 2010, a new national study will provide vital information on the use of interactive gambling technology, one of the fastest growing forms of gambling in Australia.

The study is being led by Professor Nerilee Hing, director of Southern Cross University’s Centre for Gambling Education and Research, in collaboration with the University of Sydney and the University of Lethbridge (Canada). It involves Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, a major Australian telephone and online gambling-help provider.

This major research project has been commissioned by Gambling Research Australia, an initiative of the federal government and state and territory governments, as part of its second five-year, $4 million program. GRA has committed $933,538 for completion of the project over the next 30 months.

The study aims to collect and analyse data that will help policy makers, researchers and industry operators gain a better understanding of the demographics and use of interactive gambling in Australia. The research will determine who, what, why and how Australians are using interactive gambling technology. The study will also examine the link between internet gambling and problem gambling.

Dr Sally Gainsbury, one of the study investigators from the Centre for Gambling Education and Research, said Australians were estimated to have spent $968 million on illegal offshore internet casino, bingo and poker sites and $611 million on online sports betting in 2010 (one of the most popular forms of online gambling).

“This is 1.6 times more than Australians will spend this year on gyms and fitness, and online gambling expenditure is increasing at 10-20 per cent each year,” Dr Gainsbury said.

Very little is known about the social and economic impacts of interactive gambling, which incorporates access to the internet through computers, mobile phones, wireless devices and through interactive television. Estimates suggest that between four and 30 per cent of Australians have gambled online and research indicates that online gambling may be linked with increased likelihood of experiencing gambling problems.

“Our preliminary research results on internet gambling suggest that online gamblers are involved in many different forms of gambling and appear to spend more money than non-internet gamblers. There is also a great deal of confusion among Australian gamblers about the legality of interactive gambling and many play on illegal, offshore poker sites that offer few player protections or responsible gambling measures,” Dr Gainsbury said.

“One in five internet gamblers reported having gambling problems and of these two-thirds had problems relating to other types of gambling before they gambled online. One-third of internet problem gamblers reported that the internet was the primary cause of their problems.

“The Productivity Commission recommended that internet gambling be further legalised; however, it is very difficult for policy makers to respond to interactive gambling without knowing many details about participation and the impact of this new mode of gambling.”

Dr Gainsbury and Professor Hing will be collaborating with a team of researchers including Professors Alex Blaszczynski from the University of Sydney, Dan Lubman from Turning Point and Robert Wood from the University of Lethbridge, Canada.

Professor Blaszczynski predicts the emergence of a new phase in gambling with a shift in popularity away from historically popular forms of horse wagering in the 1970s and electronic gaming machines and casinos in the 1980s, to internet gambling in this and following decades.

The study includes a nationally representative telephone survey, a comprehensive online survey, interviews with gamblers and data on treatment seeking. The research will examine interactive gambling behaviour including game preferences, and motivations for play.

It will look at how people transition from land-based to interactive gambling. The study will identify the types of people who are gambling and determine the prevalence of interactive gambling in Australia. Importantly, the research will investigate the extent to which interactive gambling contributes to problem gambling and examine the help-seeking behaviours of interactive gamblers.

Information about the work conducted by the Centre for Gambling Education & Research is available at

Photo: Dr Sally Gainsbury from Southern Cross University's Centre for Gambling Education and Research.