Addressing Australia’s gambling problem

| October 28, 2023

Professor Ross Gordon from the QUT School of Advertising, Marketing & PR said his team’s research draws attention to the need for a broader understanding of risky and harmful consumption that doesn’t just focus on individual responsibility, but pays more attention to how the social environment, markets, and marketing drives harm. Professor Gordon (pictured above) points to how a recent Parliament of Australia inquiry noted that the health and social harms from online gambling are ‘wreaking havoc in our communities’ across Australia.“Australians are the world’s biggest gamblers in per capita terms spending over $225billion in total during 2018-2019, with total losses of just over $25 billion, according to the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, 2021,” he said.“And among those who gambled during 2022, 46% were classified as ‘being at some risk of gambling harm’, the Australian Gambling Research Centre said in 2023.”Professor Gordon said gambling generates significant health and social harms in Australia including stress, anxiety, depression, migraines, insomnia, financial hardship, relationship breakdown, suicide, reduced productivity, and criminality. “Much existing research on gambling harm, and more widely on risky and harmful consumption puts the focus on individual responsibility,” Professor Gordon said.“This often ignores how social environment, markets, and marketing drives harmful gambling.”“Our research identifies the ongoing tensions that people who bet on sports negotiate when in the face of intensive marketing, technologies such as apps and phones, social normalisation and the potential harms from risky betting.”Professor Gordon led an interdisciplinary investigation of sports betting along with QUT Research Fellow Dr Theresa Harada, QUT PhD student Hayden Cahill, Professor Gerda Reith (University of Glasgow), Professor Gordon Waitt (University of Wollongong), Associate Professor Joseph Ciorciari (Swinburne), and Dr Lauren Gurrieri (RMIT). “This project aims to better understand how young adults use, communicate about and experience mobile phone sports betting applications,” he said. “There is little research on the use of betting apps, even though sports betting is the fastest growing segment of the gambling market. “One of our participants in the study talked of how ‘You feel horrible’ when you lose a bet ‘It drives you crazy … I’ve dropped my phone, smashed the screen in the place because I was so upset. I lost a bit of money; I was out of my mind, it’s horrible’.” “Clever marketing, new technologies such as smartphones and apps, and products such as group betting, as well as weak policy and regulatory control have made it easy for Australians to bet anywhere, anytime and on anything.“With the addictive nature of sport, plus gambling, plus smartphones plus apps – all of which are designed to be addictive – it’s a powder keg.”“We call for stronger policy that regulates the gambling environment and restricts marketing, and for behaviour change programs that denormalises sports betting in everyday life and provide better wraparound support for those experiencing gambling harm in our communities.”The research project paper has been published as an online first article in the journal Marketing Theory.The team’s research from this project was submitted to the Parliament of Australia Inquiry into Online Gambling Harm and Professor Gordon gave oral evidence to the Inquiry, and their recommendations appeared prominently in the Inquiry report.