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Gambling in Australia: A Public Health Perspective on Challenges, Interventions, and Cultural Dynamics
  • 3

  • Course Code: PHE7452
  • University: Birmingham City University
  • Country: United Kingdom

Executive Summary

This report looks at the problems that gambling causes for public health in Australia in great detail. It goes into great detail about the history of gambling and shows how deeply it is rooted in Australian culture and the economy.

From the point of view of public health, models like the Ottawa Charter and the Nuffield Ladder are used to look at different types of interventions, such as educational programmes and stricter rules on gambling, that can help reduce the harm that comes from it.

Though gambling has a lot of favorable impacts on economy, such as bringing a lot of money and providing jobs, the report states that still there is a major problem with acceptance of gambling in society. This cultural aspect makes the public health problems associated with gambling worse.

Overall, the report reaches the conclusion that current drives are generally in accordance with the economic and social realities of gambling. However, to alter the way people perceive gambling as a whole and to enhance the strength of what is currently being done, the focus must be narrower. This dual strategy is quite crucial to Australia’s public health on gambling.

Introduction

Australians can bet on many different sports and games, and gambling contributes significantly to the economy and culture of the country (Marko et al., 2022). The scope of this report is to investigate the entire impact on public health that gambling has produced in Australia.

It will review its impact on both psychological and physical health, together with social and economic consequences. The goals entail viewing current policies and programmes, identifying gaps, and developing evidence based plans for mitigation and prevention of harms associated with gambling. It encompasses ethical concerns as well as the larger impacts of gambling on society in Australia.

Background

Australians have been gambling since European settlers arrived in the late 18th century (Nyemcsok et al., 2021). 1810 saw the first organized gambling event in the country, a horse race. The government of Australia introduced lotteries during the WWI.

Originally intended to raise money for returning veterans, the lotteries quickly became a major Australian gambling institution. In the mid-20th century, slot machines, or "pokies," became popular. They became a cultural staple after being legalised in New South Wales in 1953 and spreading to pubs and clubs nationwide (Black et al., 2022).

Tasmania's Wrest Point Hotel Casino was Australia's first legal casino, opening in 1973 (Awaworyi Churchill and Farrell, 2020). This event changed how Australians play and relax, helping the economy and tourism. Other states allowed casinos in the following decades. Last to legalise gambling was Victoria in 1991.

Online gambling changed even more with the internet. The Interactive Gambling Act of the early 2000s protected players and regulated online gambling (Nyemcsok et al., 2021). Online gambling is popular and offers Australian players many games.

adult gambling in australia in 2022
Figure 1: Adult gambling in Australia in 2022
(Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2023)

Public Health Concern

Gambling boosts the economy, but its effects on society and public health are menacing (Delfabbro and King, 2020). According to studies, the prevalence of problem gambling is estimated to be between 0.5% and 1.0%, with an additional 1.4% to 2.1% of Australians, or over 395 000, at risk of developing problems (Abrams, 2023). Relapse rates from gambling are approximately 75%, making it a relapsing remitting disorder.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2023), 38% of Australian adults gambled weekly in 2022. Gambling was more common in men. Men were more likely to gamble differently, spend more, and be in danger. Understanding how people gamble and finding good public health solutions is even more important because gambling is so common and dangerous.

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Public Health Perspective

From the point of view of public health, looking at gambling in Australia means figuring out and fixing the many ways that gambling can hurt people's health and well-being. This way of thinking sees gambling not only as a personal problem, but also as a problem for society as a whole, with effects that reach far and wide.

 public health impacts of gambling
Figure 2: Public Health Impacts of Gambling (PHIGam) Model
(Source: Latvala et al., 2019)


Public Health Impacts of Gambling (PHIGam) model divides gambling's effects into financial, labour, and health and well-being (Andersson et al., 2022). These effects are personal, social, and societal. Financial impacts include personal and economic changes. Labour impacts include productivity and employment status changes. The health and well-being effects are crucial. Physical, mental, and social health are affected.

The public health approach recognises that gambling affects non-problem gamblers as well (Delfabbro and King, 2020). Gambling even with low odds can hurt people, so affected families need help and referrals. All of Australia's states and territories offer gambling counselling and support, demonstrating the importance of a broad view of gambling harm.

Gambling in Australia affects people and society in many ways, so public health strategies like prevention, treatment, and policy changes must be implemented. This approach is important to minimize gambling problems and strengthen communities. 

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Main causal/contributory factors

Structural Factors

Social

Australian gamblers are driven by social life. Several factors affect how people feel about gambling and their likelihood to gamble. Australians view gambling as normal, which is a major social factor (Nyemcsok et al., 2021). Gambling, especially sports betting and pokies, is a common pastime. Common gambling venues and media and ad portrayals normalise gambling, making it more socially acceptable.

Family and social networks also matter. The gambling habits of family and friends can greatly influence people's gambling (Tulloch et al., 2021). Children of problem gamblers are especially vulnerable. Many Australian families with dependent children are at risk of gambling because one or both parents gamble (Paterson et al., 2020;

Järvinen-Tassopoulos, 2020). Children exposed to this content may feel and act differently when gambling.
Community and neighbourhood matter too. The number of gambling spots and the local cultures can affect gambling habits (Black et al., 2022). Gambling may increase in areas with many casinos.

Economic

There are many important and varied economic factors that affect gambling in Australia. The gambling industry's benefits to the economy and negative effects on society are intricately linked.

 aus gove revenue from gambling
Figure 3: Australian Government's Revenue from Gambling
(Source: Statista, 2023)


Australia's gambling industry is important to its economy. In 2019–20, all gambling sectors collected $5.8 billion in taxes (Australasian Gaming Council, 2022). Gambling's gross value added 420 million Australian dollars to the economy in 2022 (Statista, 2023). This sector employs 201,950 Australians and pays over $10.5 billion (Australasian Gaming Council, 2022). Gambling is a major source of income and jobs in Australia, as shown by this data.

Nonetheless, the social costs of gambling outweigh the economic benefits. Gambling has caused financial, mental, and emotional issues and decreased productivity. The social costs in Victoria are estimated at $7 billion per year (AIFS, 2019). These numbers demonstrate the importance of weighing gambling's economic benefits against its social harms.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the casino industry has been strong and flexible (Zhang et al., 2023). Online gambling is becoming more popular and will likely continue. To allow online gambling sites to work with traditional casinos, the landscape is changing. This could boost industry revenue.

Cultural

Gambling in Australia is heavily influenced by culture, especially in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities (Rowlatt et al., 2023). Different cultures' views of luck and chance affect how they gamble. Some cultures associate luck with character, and winning at gambling is said to indicate good character. These beliefs can make gamblers feel powerless.

Moving to Australia and gambling easily can lead to addiction, and stress can worsen this (Marionneau and Nikkinen, 2022). Newcomers often gamble because they can't find culturally appropriate entertainment. Many casinos offer culturally sensitive spaces to attract minorities.

Some cultures view gambling negatively, which can make them more vulnerable because gamblers often hide their problems from family and friends (Rowlatt et al., 2023). Culture affects how CALD people seek help. They prefer family solutions and are hesitant to seek professional help due to cultural stigma and gambling problems.

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Causes of the Causes

In order to investigate the main causes of gambling problems in Australia, the Marmot Framework created to address health disparities can be utilised. This framework emphasizes social factors that influence people’s health; these ideas are very significant in understanding the reasons why people gamble and how these actions impact them.

 marmot framework

Figure 4: The Marmot Framework
(Source: Nordmyr and Forsman, 2020)


1.    Social Gradient: People belonging to the lower class are more prone to gambling addiction (Granero et al., 2020). This is partly due to the disparities in education and income as they are likely to see gambling as a solution to money problems or something that is affordable but still fun.

2.    Stress: The stress of everyday life, especially in poor areas, can make people turn to gambling as a way to deal with it (Granero et al., 2020). People can turn to gambling as a short-term way to deal with stress caused by things like job insecurity, unstable finances, or difficult living conditions.

3.    Early Life: Children who are exposed to gambling at a young age, especially in homes where adults gamble, may grow up thinking it is normal to do so (Tulloch et al., 2021). This early life influence has a big effect on how someone feels about gambling and how likely they are to become addicted to it as an adult.

4.    Social Exclusion: People who feel left out or rejected by society, like immigrants or people with mental health problems, may turn to gambling as a way to make friends or escape (Abrams, 2023). Places where people gamble often become social hubs that, ironically, both make people feel less alone and more alone.

5.    Work: Having a job and the atmosphere at work can affect how much people gamble. As a way to escape from stress or unemployment, people may turn to gambling (Granero et al., 2020). On the other hand, having a job can give one the money and social connections one needs to gamble.

6.    Unemployment: It is not easy to say how unemployment and gambling are connected. Even though people who are unemployed may not have much money, the extra time and lack of structure that comes with being unemployed can make people more likely to gamble (Awaworyi Churchill and Farrell, 2020). 

7.    Social Support: People who don't have a lot of friends and family may look for community in places where people gamble (Abrams, 2023). On the other hand, having strong family and social networks can help keep one from becoming addicted to gambling.

8.    Addiction Services and Education: It is very important that people can get addiction services and learn about the risks of gambling (Tassopoulos, 2020). Communities that don't have easy access to these resources are more likely to be hurt by gambling.

Using the Marmot Framework, it is easy to see that problems with gambling in Australia have deep roots in larger cultural and socioeconomic issues. To reduce the harm caused by gambling, effective public health strategies must therefore address these underlying factors.

Policy Support 

There are a few important things that stand out about Australia's policy support for dealing with gambling problems: the current and historical situation; the focus on societal change and health-improving environments; and the alignment of government and WHO policy.

Current Policies and Measures

•    National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering: The Australian Government, along with state and territory governments, put together this framework (Heirene et al., 2021). This framework protects people who gamble online.

It has rules like not letting people use lines of credit to gamble online, limits on payday lenders, ways to make sure customers are who they say they are, rules on how to close accounts, activity statements, clear messages about gambling, staff training, and the National Self-Exclusion Register (BetStop).

•    AML/CTF Regulations: The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) ensures that gambling businesses comply with the rules for preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism (Saputra, 2021). These rules are to be obeyed; otherwise, there are dire consequences.

•    Consumer Protection Laws: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ensures that gambling businesses comply with consumer protection laws (Marko et al., 2022). These laws include fair advertising regarding gambling and treating customers fairly.

In recent years, Australians have been made aware of the dangers of gambling through updated gambling laws. For instance, as electronic gaming machines gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, more individuals gambled, but more individuals also became aware of the social and economic consequences of problem gambling (Black et al., 2022).

The evidence on causes and WHO guidelines are being debated as to how well current policies match. There are ways in which problem gambling is handled, but others say that more effort should be made to identify gambling addiction, and ensure that harm minimization strategies are effective (Zhang et al., 2023).

Recent policy changes indicate that a movement toward a more holistic approach to reducing the harm from gambling is taking place, more consistent with public health-focused policies. These measures include those to combat online gambling, deal with the aftermath of gambling ads and improve consumer protections.

Public Health Interventions

The public health initiatives in Australia to reduce the harm suffered by gambling use a variety of techniques each concentrating on a different element of the issue and a different group of individuals. Public health models can enable assessing the interventions and determine how effective they have been and where to focus.

Preventative and Educational Interventions: This is a part of Australia’s strategies of public health through community education campaigns and other preventive activities. The objectives of these interventions are to inform people about the dangers of gambling and encourage them to gamble in a responsible manner (Fiskaali et al., 2023). They often target specific high-risk groups and obtain their money from taxes on gambling. The focus here is on preventing gambling-related problems before they occur.
Pharmacological and Psychological Interventions: It is important to know that Australia has a short history of using medications for treating people with gambling problems (Paterson et al., 2020). On the other hand, drug-based treat the system is not very important in treating gambling problems. sometimes, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists asserts that opioid antagonists such as naltrexone should be used. One of the most essential components of the intervention approach is psychological support – this usually involves counselling.
Public Health Frameworks: Building an Australian public health framework for gambling illustrates the need to address gambling issues on an individual, family and community basis (Delfabbro. and King, 2020). This entails identifying the real power of the gambling industry and solving the problems in people’s lives, which contribute to problem gambling.
Regulatory and Policy Interventions: Developing policies to reduce the negative impact of gambling through regulation has been the main focus in Australia (Francis and Livingstone, 2021). These include legalizing it to make it easier to get rid of unlicensed gambling houses and having all of the money the government collects from gambling pooled together to assist the population. Discussion is also being made for a national regulator and reporting system for better management of the industry.

Analysis 

The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion model can be considered for analysis of public health interventions relating to the reduction of gambling in Australia (Whitty et al., 2021). 

 ottawa charter

Figure 5: Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion Model (1986)
(Source: Whitty et al., 2021)


•    Developing Personal Skills: These interventions involve education and awareness campaigns that sensitize people on the risks of gambling and how to gamble accordingly. These programmes are meant to educate people regarding the required information and skills on how to make informed decisions pertaining to gambling.

•    Creating Supportive Environments: This means making spaces where chances of gambling are less likely to happen or to occur. For instance, restricting the number of venues where gambling could take place, limiting advertisement of gambling, and providing measures in gambling establishments so as to encourage responsible gambling.

•    Strengthening Community Action: Community programmes that make ordinary people become active in their communities and help networks of people that are affected by gambling. These include community education programmes and support groups that assist the entire community in managing gambling issues.

•    Reorienting Health Services: Health services are being reoriented with a focus on how to include treatment for gambling addiction in the larger health care system. This includes teaching health care workers how to spot and treat gambling addiction and making treatment and counselling services easy to get to.

•    Building Healthy Public Policy: This includes putting in place laws and rules that control gambling. Policies could be laws that regulate the functioning of casinos, establish the age limit, and determine where the money earned from gambling will be used to invest in community welfare programs.

Ethics

 Nuffield Ladder Of Public Health
Figure 6: The Nuffield Ladder of Public Health
(Source: Xiao et al., 2022)


The Nuffield Ladder of Public Health Interventions provides a means of determining how intrusive and effective some public health strategies are (Bhattacharya, 2023). When it comes to gambling interventions in Australia, they can be put into groups based on how much they interfere with people's freedom:

1.    Do Nothing or Simply Monitor the Current Situation: Monitoring and research the behaviours or impacts of gambling though without engaging directly in it is its first step. It is very important to know the scale of gambling problems.
2.    Provide Information: This is where educational campaigns and programmes that make people aware come in. Messages about the dangers of gambling, how to gamble responsibly and where one can get help are promoted by public health. These interventions are non-intrusive and seek to educate, not compel.
3.    Enable Choice: Such interventions help people to make healthier choices without being forced on them. these programmes involve self-exclusion schemes that enable a person to abstain from attending gambling establishments or online betting sites, and tools such as limit setting.
4.    Guide Choices through Changing the Default Policy: For instance, closing ATMs at places where people gamble or making gambling ads less prominent.
5.    Guide Choices through Incentives: Rewards for not gambling could be an incentive, and higher taxes on gambling winnings could serve as a disincentive.
6.    Guide Choices through Disincentives: It entails tough measures such as penalties for violation of the law about gambling or larger imposition rates on gambling merchandises to reduce their use.
7.    Restrict Choice: Making laws that restrict people from doing certain forms of gambling, e.g., restricting the time that casinos are in operation or banning specific forms of high-risk betting.
8.    Eliminate Choice: This is the highest level, and it could be the total ban on all forms of gambling. Due to its huge impact on people’s freedoms and that it could bring bad things they never intended, it is rarely used.

Thus, the Australian public health interventions aiming to stop people from gambling span across different steps in the Nuffield ladder. Most interventions aim at educating people and assisting in making better choices.

But there are also some, for instance, regulatory measures, which suggest or restrict the choices to diminish the harm that gambling does. This approach seems to be in the middle between the public safety and personal choice.

Conclusion

Analysing the problem of gambling’s impact on public health in Australia, it is evident that cultural and historical factors have turned gambling to be a part of society hence difficult to solve. Different types of public health interventions can be analyzed with the use of models like the Ottawa Charter and the Nuffield Ladder.

These include educational and informative campaigns to harsher rules and regulations. These interventions would have similar effects on the economy as gambling, which would be big positives and big negatives for society.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem that needs to be fixed: Australian people are deeply fascinated with the idea of gambling. Despite the broad scope of the interventions, they may not be able to transform all cultural aspects that lead people to gamble continuously.

Along with the variety of strategies that are currently in use, a more concerted and focused effort on changing the attitudes and mindset of people towards gambling is needed for a more effective public health approach to this widespread problem.

 

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