How the internet is changing gambling: findings from an Australian prevalence survey

Sally Gainsbury, Alex Russell, Nerilee Hing, Robert Wood, Dan Lubman, Alex Blaszczynski

What was the research?

This article comes from an Australia wide study that investigated interactive gambling. Its aim is to better understand the extent of this form of gambling and the characteristics of people who engage in it.

Interactive gambling refers to a range of gambling activities that are offered through interactive media, such as computers, mobile phones, tablets and digital television. The term online gambling is often used to describe the same activities.

This article is based on research that was funded by Gambling Research Australia, a partnership between the commonwealth, state and territory governments to initiate and manage a national gambling research program.

How was the research conducted?

This study involved a nationally representative telephone survey of 15,006 adults, conducted in 2011.

The survey included questions relating to gambling behaviour, interactive gambling, attitudes to gambling, problem gambling, health and demographics.

The response rate to the survey was 26.4 per cent, which is lower than some other comparable studies. In addition, in interpreting the results from this study it is important to be aware that bias may have resulted from oversampling certain portions of the population to ensure a large enough sample of interactive gamblers.

What were key findings of the research?

  • Gambling participation, including both interactive and non-interactive gambling, was 21 per cent lower than in the last national prevalence study conducted in 1999 by the Productivity Commission.
  • Approximately 8 per cent of Australians had participated in interactive gambling during the past 12 months, an increase on previous studies.
  • Interactive gamblers were more likely than other gamblers to participate in all forms of gambling, (i.e. EGM gambling, sportsbetting), but not lotteries and scratch tickets.
  • A majority of interactive gamblers participated in betting on horse or dog races (64.2 per cent), and in sports betting (54 per cent).
  • A majority of both interactive and non-interactive gamblers thought that the harms of gambling outweighed the benefits.
  • Interactive gamblers were more likely to be male, younger, have home internet access, participate in more forms of gambling and have higher gambling expenditure.
  • Most interactive gamblers (87.1 per cent) accessed internet gambling via a computer or laptop, with 9.5 per cent using a mobile or smart phone and 2.5 per cent using a tablet or other portable device.
  • Approximately 52 per cent of interactive gamblers preferred interactive gambling over land-based gambling, compared with approximately 42 per cent who preferred land-based gambling.

How this research might be useful?

As the first national gambling prevalence study since 1999, this research provides some insight into changes in gambling participation over time. However, that study had a different method to the study conducted in 1999 and its results are therefore not directly comparable. As a result, observations of change are indicative rather than conclusive.

In addition, as the first large, representative study of interactive gambling, this research provides valuable information on the prevalence of interactive gambling in Australia, as well as new information on the behaviour of interactive gamblers.

Future publications from this study will address the topic of the relationship between problem gambling and interactive gambling, which are not addressed in this article.

How to cite this research

Sally Gainsbury, Alex Russell, Nerilee Hing, Robert Wood, Dan Lubman, Alex Blaszczynski (2013). 'How the internet is changing gambling: findings from an Australian prevalence survey' Journal of Gambling Studies. 

GIRO research update

This summary is included in the January edition of the GIRO research updates.

January 2014 (PDF - 65 KB)

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