Crown Casino Melbourne

Casino gamblers are more likely to be addicts than pokies players in hotels and clubs, new university research suggests. (Image: AFP)

Casino gamblers in Australia with addictions are being let down by the very casinos they play in, a new report says. Research also suggests that gambling addicts Down Under are more likely to be young men.

Commissioned by Gambling Research Australia and carried out by Adelaide University’s South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, the report is the first real in-depth look at how the country’s casinos treat their players.

And the ‘Responsible Gambling and Casinos’ report isn’t pretty reading for Crown and the rest of the big boys.

The report suggests that problem gamblers are three times more likely to come from casinos than pubs and clubs. And in findings that will be of no surprise to any anti-gambling movements in Oz, casino gamblers are also likely to be under the age of 35 with disposable bucks.

SACES ‘Responsible Gambling and Casinos’ Key Findings

  • Young male gamblers more prone to gambling addiction
  • Table games favoured by young men (<35), pokies by older women (45-70)
  • Casino visitors three times more likely to have compulsive gambling addiction

“No Evidence” That Casinos Are Protecting Players 

Aussie casinos will lick their lips at the findings that suggest they earn $900,000 on average per year from each table game. However, they won’t enjoy accusations that they are abandoning their problem gamblers.

Speaking about the report, Adelaide Associate Professor and SACES Executive Director, Michael O’Neil, suggested that casinos need to do more.

“Many casinos are required by law to restrict gambling activities in some way, such as offering self-exclusion programs, having a specified level of staff training and intervention, offering voluntary pre-commitment cards, enforcing betting limits, restricting access to credit, limits on withdrawals from ATMs, and so forth,” he said.

“Unfortunately, our research uncovered that there is little to no evidence available to indicate how effective these provisions are in casinos.

“While a large amount of effort is put into these practices by many casinos, we just don’t know if it’s having any effect, either in preventing people from becoming problem gamblers, or helping to stop and potentially reverse such problem behaviour.”

Alcohol Laws Fuelling Gambling

In Sydney in particular, recent clampdowns on lockouts mean that more drinkers are heading to the city’s casinos to continue drinking. That, Prof. O’Neil says, contributes to more gambling.

But the problem is that casinos differ from state to state when treating compulsive behaviour. At Melbourne’s Crown Casino, for example, special cards are needed to play high-stakes. Similar restrictions aren’t in place in NT or NSW casinos.

In 2014, the Victoria government controversially extended Crown’s licence and allowed it to install almost 130 more pokie machines. Incredibly, Crown were given assurances that they would receive compensation if a strengthening of problem gambling legislation hit the casino’s profits. Voluntary “pre-commitment” measures came into force last year to help problem gamblers curb their wagers.

The key word here is “voluntary”, however, with the prepaid card system only trialled by a handful of hotels and clubs.

While SACES’ findings will be nothing new to campaigners like Independent MP, Nick Xenophon, it could just provide a wake-up call for casinos who might look at strengthening their problem gambling programmes.

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