The Western Australia Racing and Wagering Authority has been criticized by at least one MP for dropping its spending for problem-gambling support funds, yet at the same time increasing the funding allotted to promotional activities and marketing.
It was recently reported in Focusgn.com that A$2.4 billion reached the coffers of the WA gambling authority – a record amount. The state-owned authority increased its promotional spending by 22%, while support for problem-gambling projects dropped 15% to just over $550,000.
But rumblings have been heard from MPs who don’t think that the authority should invest more in promotional offers during COVID19, as well as from the Financial Counsellors’ Association of Western Australia who thinks that support funding hasn’t increased at the same pace as the growth that has been seen in betting.
Weekly gambling spend increases among Australian gamblers in pandemic time, but responsible gambling support dries up.
COVID19 Drives Australian Gambling Spend Up by Over 300%
Despite the strict COVID19 laws that severely restricted Australians from playing at land-based casinos, this hasn’t stopped players from finding another way to enjoy their gaming sessions. In fact, the average weekly spend of Australian punters went up a whopping 332%, compared to pre-pandemic periods.
This is mainly due to the growing popularity of online casinos for Australian players in recent years.
In the past 10 years, Australian online casinos have seen the number of bettors double. This could be a plausible explanation behind the unbelievable growth in wagering amounts. Yet, since it was allocated, grant money has dried up, and financial counselors have only recently come to terms with the fact that more players need support in terms of responsible gambling.
Concerns Over Responsible Gambling Taking Second Stage
Melanie Every, speaking for the Financial Counsellors’ Association, believes that this higher weekly wagering spend will not ever go down to pre-COVID levels. It’s not even that there are more gamblers out there. Numbers show that the number of punters has actually dropped. However, the amount that active gamblers choose to spend has increased and is now the highest in Australian history.
Clearly, there is a need for more responsible gambling and support projects.
But there are a number of reasons why this is not happening, besides the fact that grant money has simply dried up.
One is that there is only a small number of specialized problem gambling counsellors in the state, compared to other regions such as Victoria and NSW, where there are many more per capita.
Why are more Australians betting online?
A recent study by Gambling Research Australia questioned 15,000 citizens and came back with the startling results: the number of people who wager online has doubled between 2010 and 2019. Numbers climbed from 8.1% of Australian adults partaking in some form of online wagering a decade ago, to 17.5% in 2019.
Reasons for this include:
- The growth in technological breakthroughs such as smart phones with fast internet connection, making it simple and convenient to gamble online anytime and anywhere.
- An increase in marketing activity: Online gamblers receive multiple promotional notices which could trigger their interest and activity in online gambling.
- A wider variety: Today, online betting isn’t limited to a selection of online slots. Players get to enjoy esports betting, fantasy sports and loot boxes. Younger audiences, in particular, are attracted to these new developments.
What are the Problem Gambling Stats?
But with a growing interest in gambling of any sort in Australia, comes a rise in problem gambling statistics. The Gambling Research Australia report revealed that 9.1% of the adult population has experienced some type of gambling-related harm. 6% have experienced gambling-harm from other people’s gambling habits.
The rate of problem gambling is said to be three times higher among online gamblers.
There has been a push to introduce the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Gambling by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, which aims to provide stronger consumer protections for Australians who gamble remotely.
The framework consists of 10 measures to empower players, and to ensure that the harm from online gambling is at least minimized. Players receive easy-to-use tools and information to learn how to control their gambling habits. Options range from a pre-commitment scheme to an all-out self-exclusion register.
States and territories can choose the pace at which they want to implement the measures, which is being done progressively across the board.