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NSW Co-develops Apps to Help with Problem Gambling

In a world-first, the NSW Government has developed two mobile apps in partnership with Deakin University and the University of Auckland to encourage people to gamble responsibly and access support for problem gambling.

Designed by experienced gambling clinicians, the ‘GamblingLess: In-the-Moment’ app helps people who want to quit or gamble less by acting as a counsellor in their pocket. The ‘Gambling Habit Hacker’ app helps people who want to reduce the time and money they spend gambling.

GamblingLess: In-the-Moment

The GamblingLess: In-the-Moment app is designed to provide 24/7 support to help users take immediate steps to address their gambling. The app is tailored to users’ individual needs with interactive activities to curb urges, tackle triggers and explore expectations. By responding to user feedback, the app provides the right type of support whenever and wherever they need it most.

Gambling Habit Hacker

Meanwhile, the Gambling Habit Hacker app can help users meet their goal to change gambling behaviour. Gambling Habit Hacker allows users to set daily goals to limit their spending or gambling activity each day for 4 weeks. The app checks in with users to see how they are going to meet their goals and provides advice and support.

Gambling – a major policy issue

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare notes that gambling is a major public policy issue in Australia, affecting the health and wellbeing of individuals and families in a range of ways. Estimates suggest that Australians lost approximately $25 billion on legal forms of gambling in 2018–19, representing the largest per capita losses in the world (Letts 2018; QGSO 2021).

The social costs of gambling – including adverse financial impacts, emotional and psychological costs, relationship and family impacts, and productivity loss and work impacts – have been estimated at around $7 billion in Victoria alone (Browne et al. 2017). Gambling-related harms affect not only the people directly involved, but also their families, peers and the wider community (Goodwin et al. 2017).

Gambling expenditure data are also compiled on an annual basis for the Australian Gambling Statistics report (QGSO 2021). This report defines expenditure as the net amount lost (amount wagered minus amount won) by people who gamble.

The Australian gambling statistics, 36th edition provides further background information and more detail on the definition of gambling products, sources of gambling data, relevant legislation and notes attached to specific tables and data items.

The Australian Gambling Research Centre at the Australian Institute of Family Studies examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions on gambling participation and expenditure among Australian adults who gambled in the past 12 months (Jenkinson et al. 2020).

Key findings from the study by Jenkinson and colleagues (2020) revealed that:

  • horse racing, sports betting, greyhound racing and lotto were the main products that participants gambled on before and during COVID-19
  • in general, while participation in racing, sports and other wagering activities remained relatively stable, there were statistically significant decreases in gambling on most land-based products during the restrictions, including on:
    • poker/electronic gambling machines or ‘pokies’
    • instant scratch tickets
    • Keno
    • casino table games
  • even with limited access to venues, overall, participants gambled more often during COVID-19; this was largely driven by increases in the frequency of gambling on racing (horse, greyhound and harness), sports, eSports, lotto and casino table games

Thus, overall the need to marry technology and therapy is evident. The Hospitality and Racing Minister stated that problem gambling is a serious issue and the urge to gamble can take hold at any time of the day or night. He noted that the NSW Government has spent more than $400,000 developing the apps that will act as a circuit breaker to give people real-time support 24/7. It will also make it easier to access support services.

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