Is counselling for pokie addiction an effective harm minimisation measure?

Parliament house flag post

Is counselling for pokie addiction an effective harm minimisation measure?

Posted 27/10/2011 by Amanda Biggs


At a rally at the Canterbury RSL in western Sydney on Tuesday evening, the opposition leader Tony Abbott predicted a future Coalition government would rescind any legislation that introduces mandatory pre-commitment on electronic gaming machines (EGMs). Instead of mandatory pre-commitment, he suggested a greater focus on individual counselling for problem gamblers is needed.

If the opposition leader's support for counselling results in more funding for such services, many who provide help to Australia's estimated 95,000 EGM problem gamblers and their families will probably welcome it. But the efficacy of counselling as a harm minimisation measure is questionable; it is not clear that increased counselling services would significantly reduce problem gambling prevalence rates.

Currently all jurisdictions have in place strategies to promote awareness of gambling help services, including the provision of a national online gambling helpline. As well, jurisdictions actively promote their gambling help services (see examples from Victoria and Tasmania). Most venues with EGMs provide problem gambling counselling services such as the ClubSafe counselling service, and provide training to venue staff to help them to direct problem gamblers to such services.

But even with this range of services available and their wide promotion, problem gambling on EGMs persists. In evidence to the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform (see p. 55 in its report), a number of witnesses highlighted that one of the problems is that many problem gamblers simply don't access counselling services. The Productivity Commission (PC) in its report (p. 7.3) also found this problem and estimated that just 8 to 17 per cent of problem gamblers ever sought access to counselling services. The reasons given by the PC for such low uptake include denial around their addiction, stigma and a belief they can solve the problem without help. Many who do seek help only do so after they have reached 'rock bottom'.

In addition, while studies show that counselling can be effective, the type of counselling, methodology and length of time it is offered may all affect efficacy and outcomes. One report into the effectiveness of counselling for problem gambling found that while a majority of problem gamblers felt the counselling they received was beneficial—with two thirds reporting they gambled a 'lot less'—there was insufficient evidence to support one particular counselling approach over another.

Further, a report prepared for beyondblue (the national depression initiative) found that problem gamblers may present with multiple co-morbidities, such as depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health problems which also require treatment. There are also issues around correctly identifying an EGM player as a problem gambler so they can be directed to an appropriate service. Many venue staff report difficulties in identifying problem gamblers even after training. According to a recent Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation survey (p. 4), 36 per cent of staff who received training had some difficulty in identifying problem gamblers. In any case, by the time a problem gambler presents to a service, much irreparable damage may have already been inflicted—including financial damage, mental anguish and family breakdown.

At a time when many mental health experts are arguing against government proposals to limit funding for certain mental health services, it is not clear how an increase in demand for such services from problem gamblers could be accommodated within existing resources. But while problem gamblers persist in not presenting to such services, many venue staff remain unable to identify problem gamblers, and the optimal counselling approach remains unclear, directing more funding to such services is arguably not an ideal approach.

These limitations around counselling may explain why many problem gambling experts, including those quoted by the Productivity Commission in its report into gambling (see p. 7.6), regard it as the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. To be effective and prevent harm from problem gambling, measures that provide a fence at the top of the cliff may still need to be considered.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

We welcome your comments, or additional information which is relevant to a post. These can be added by clicking on the ‘Add your comment’ option above. Please note that the Parliamentary Library will moderate comments, and reserves the right not to publish comments that are inconsistent with the objectives of FlagPost. This includes comments that are not relevant to the article, factually incorrect or politically partisan, as well as spam, profanity and personal abuse. We will close comments after three months.




Captcha
Generate a new image
Type characters from the image:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

refugees asylum immigration climate change Australian foreign policy parliament social security elections welfare reform welfare policy school education Australian Defence Force health financing higher education emissions trading indigenous Australians women private health insurance people trafficking Employment illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Middle East disability Sport Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics United Nations Asia Afghanistan income management Medicare health forced labour Taxation Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism politics dental health Australian Electoral Commission WADA criminal law transport aid child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act Australian Public Service governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations constitution New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme OECD corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senate Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers UK Parliament election results voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability Papua New Guinea youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping crime health risks International Women's Day Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining High Court military history electoral reform employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing by-election European Union family assistance skilled migration banking United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing political parties water productivity health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery firearms question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise public policy climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Census Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage Population rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum early childhood education Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers financial sector Canada Somalia United Kingdom GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top