The question of whether governments and the gambling industry are doing enough to address the harms of problem gambling is one that continues to be debated in Australia and overseas. This paper presents the latest gambling statistics and outlines key developments in NSW in the past five years in relation to harm minimisation.
Australia is reported to have the highest per capita gambling losses in the world. NSW has the second highest per capita gambling losses in Australia and the highest per capita gaming machine losses in Australia. In NSW, 1% of adults are problem gamblers, and a further 2.8% are moderate-risk gamblers (2019 NSW Gambling Survey, refer Table 1, p 5). Due to survey differences, it is difficult to compare problem gambling rates in NSW with other Australian and international jurisdictions.
In the last five years, the NSW Government has introduced various legislative reforms, including banning betting advertising during sporting fixtures, changing the Local Impact Assessment scheme for gaming machines, increasing penalties for offering an inducement to gamble, and implementing stage one of the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering. It also set up the Office of Responsible Gambling, which has published a three-year strategic plan with a vision of working towards zero gambling harm. The plan's goals relate to: research, partnerships, education and awareness, support services, and technology and innovation.
Critics continue to argue that NSW has too many gaming machines in pubs and clubs and that much more needs to be done to address gambling harms. The Alliance for Gambling Reform is currently calling for: giving local councils the right to cap gaming machines in their area, introducing $1 maximum bets for gaming machines, and banning loyalty programs for gamblers. Recent research reports recommend a range of other measures (such as prohibiting gaming machines from having losses disguised as wins; and phasing out gambling sponsorship in sport) to improve harm minimisation.