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The Economic and Social Implications of Gambling

The Economic and Social Implications of Gambling

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 09/2003 by Talina Drabsch
The gambling industry is big business in Australia, with Australians losing $15 billion on gambling last year. The industry has grown substantially in the last twenty years following the widespread introduction and legalisation of casinos and gaming machines. The proportion of household disposable income directed towards gambling has escalated, as has the amount of taxation revenue provided to governments from gambling. A number of parallels have been drawn between gambling and alcohol as both are legal for adults, heavily marketed, strongly regulated, provide substantial tax revenue, can be viewed as entertainment, and are deemed a matter of personal responsibility.

Section one of this paper (pp 1-10) defines a number of key terms. It outlines the various forms of gambling and provides an overview of the extent of gambling in New South Wales and Australia.

Section two (pp 10-20) examines the history of gambling in Australia. It adopts the classification used by the Australian Institute for Gambling Research, which divided gambling history into four periods: the early period of colonisation (1788-1940s); post-war gambling (1945-70); commercialisation and growth (1970s and 80s); and competition and globalisation (1990s onwards).

Section three (pp 20-30) discusses the way gambling is regulated in New South Wales and provides details of the main gambling legislation. Section four (pp 31-42) subsequently gives an overview of the legislation in other Australian jurisdictions, as well as a brief summary of the situation in the United Kingdom and United States of America.

Section five (pp 43-54) focuses on the financial aspect of gambling. It notes the positive and negative economic impacts of gambling as well as providing data on the size of the gambling industry in New South Wales and Australia. It scrutinises the contribution of gambling to government revenue, with a particular focus on gaming machine taxation.

Section six (pp 54-75) highlights the social aspects of gambling. It explores the reason people gamble, the attitude of the community, and the phenomenon of problem gambling. Harm minimisation measures are outlined including responsible gambling, statewide caps, the community development and support expenditure scheme, the casino community benefit fund, treatment services and exclusion schemes. The controversy surrounding online gambling is explained, and the various links between gambling and crime are discussed.