Gambling harm costs Victorians $7 billion a year

Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Central Queensland University (CQU) study released in Melbourne today has calculated the cost of gambling harm in Victoria in 2014–15 at $7 billion.

Funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, The social cost of gambling to Victoria is the first Australian study to consider the full social costs of gambling harm, in financial terms, on a community.

“It is an important piece of research because it quantifies, for the first time, the cost of harm associated with all gambling in the state,” Foundation CEO Louise Glanville said.

“About 85 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria is associated with low- and moderate-risk gamblers, and only 15 per cent with people who experience severe gambling harm, yet previous research has focused solely on the costs related to severe harm,” she said.

CQU researcher and leader author Associate Professor Matthew Browne said the research findings concurred with previous studies that most gambling harm is experienced by people who engage in low- and moderate-risk gambling.

“The study shows that in 2014–15, low- and moderate-risk gambling made a significant contribution to the social cost of gambling harm in Victoria at $4.3 billion.

“During the same period, the cost of high-risk gambling, sometimes called problem gambling, totalled $2.36 billion,” Ass. Prof. Browne said.

Ms Glanville said the research findings showed the high costs associated with low- and moderate-risk gambling harm supported the rationale for a public health approach to address all gambling harm, not just severe harm.

“Harm from gambling is a complex community issue that can be influenced by the social, cultural, legislative and regulatory environment, as well as the types and configuration of gambling products on offer and their promotion. The consequences may affect individuals, families, friends and the broader community,” she said.

“The new research will better inform Foundation activities to raise awareness about gambling harm, and to respond to challenges and develop partnerships and programs that offer effective prevention, early intervention and support services to Victorians experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, gambling harm.

“There are great gains to be made in improving the gambling environment and raising awareness in the community of how to gamble for entertainment without harm.

“At an individual level, the difference between low-harm and no-harm may be as simple as a few behaviour modifications, like setting spending limits and sticking to them.”

Ass. Prof. Browne said it would be easy to assume that financial losses were the greatest gambling harm, but that wasn’t the case.

“Family and relationship problems, such as conflict, separation and divorce, accounted for the highest cost gambling harm, followed by emotional and psychological issues.

“Financial losses came in third in the six types of harm we identified,” he said.

The researchers categorised the types and costs of gambling harm as follows:

  • $2.2 billion – family and relationship problems
  • $1.6 billion – emotional and psychological issues, including distress, depression, suicide and violence
  • $1.3 billion – financial losses through, for example, excessive spending on gambling, bankruptcy and illegal offshore gambling
  • $1.1 billion – costs to the Victorian government, such as research, regulation, and professional support services, including mental health and homelessness services
  • $600 million – lost productivity and other work-related costs
  • $100 million – costs of crime, including to businesses and the justice system.

“This research adds to the pivotal findings of the Foundation-funded Study of gambling and health in Victoria and Assessing gambling-related harm in Victoria in helping us to build a clearer picture of the effects of gambling in the state,” Ms Glanville said.

The Social cost of gambling to Victoria full report is available to download from www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/socialcost

Media contact: Fiona Skivington 0428 248 931

Note to editors: Foundation CEO Louise Glanville and CQU researcher and lead author Ass. Prof. Matthew Browne are available for interview.