Report prepared by the Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory CQ University for the Office for Problem Gambling, Department of Human Services. Adelaide, South Australia
Researchers from CQ University surveyed 2,030 South Australian adults about their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours towards sports betting. The researchers were particularly concerned with the extent to which sports betting is perceived to be ‘normal’ in South Australia, and how the normalisation of sports betting affects young people. This is because adults who develop gambling problems are often exposed to risky gambling attitudes and behaviours as children and are likely to have participated in risky gambling as adolescents.
‘Normalisation’ occurs when environmental factors (e.g., advertising showing betting as a socially desirable activity or linked to culturally important events, sports betting is highly accessible) influences community beliefs and attitudes which in turn affect behaviours.
Environmental factors – media as a tool for normalisation
Most South Australians perceive sports betting to be highly accessible and believe that sports betting advertising encourages people who enjoy sport to start gambling.
The survey also revealed overwhelmingly negative sentiment toward the advertising and promotion of sports betting across the community. South Australians are concerned by how much sports betting advertising children are exposed to (78%), believe advertising makes children think betting on sport is normal (84%), and encourages children to want to gamble (76%).
Beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours
Most survey respondents agreed that occasional sports betting is harmless (73%), although casual sports betting can lead to problems if you are not careful (86%). The majority of respondents believe that there is too much sports betting today (78%) and estimated that 46% of adults bet on sports regularly. This is a gross over-estimate however as the South Australian Gambling Prevalence Survey suggests around 7% of South Australians have bet on sports in the last 12 months.
Sports bettors who responded to the survey often held risky beliefs about their skills and abilities when betting. More than half of South Australian sports betters consider betting on sport to be safer than other forms of gambling as it relies less on luck (58%), that betting enhances the enjoyment of watching sport (57%), and that winning a bet is the product of their skill and knowledge of sports (56%). Perhaps most concerningly, young people, couples with children and those with higher levels of education were more likely to hold these types of risky beliefs.
While most South Australians believe it is not healthy for children to see their parents betting on sport (78%), caregivers who were sports bettors appeared largely ambivalent about the importance of avoiding conversations about their betting activity or participating in sports betting when children were present.
Social influences from family and friends are key drivers of gambling behaviours and gambling problems among both adolescents and adults and can contribute to the normalisation of gambling. These influences begin for children and adolescents via parental modelling, parental supervision and parental values, attitudes and beliefs. Exposure to problem gambling as a child and adolescent also increases an individual’s risk of becoming an adult problem gambler. It is important, therefore, that caregivers consider the impact of exposing children to sports betting.
Normalisation of sports betting in South Australia
In addition to capturing community attitudes and beliefs, the researchers measured the extent to which sports betting is perceived to be normalised in South Australia. Normalisation was defined as the extent to which people believe those around them endorse and participate in sports betting and perceive betting to be a necessary part of sport.
On a scale of 0 to 100 (where 100 suggests sports betting is wholly normalised across the population), South Australians scored 45. The researchers found that age was an important factor in understanding people’s perceptions, with younger participants, and particularly those with higher incomes, being much more likely to perceive sports betting as normalised in the community.
While this score is not discouraging, it suggests there is a need to disrupt the normalisation of sports betting. This is particularly true if we want to avoid those outcomes associated with the normalisation of other risky behaviours such as smoking. Public health approaches point to the importance of raising awareness and community education about the risks associated with sports betting, participating in protective behaviours (e.g., setting limits, not betting when upset, stopping if not having fun, preventing children’s exposure), and initiatives that challenge the erroneous beliefs and attitudes that underpin risky sports betting behaviours.
Taking action to disrupt the normalisation of sports betting
Most South Australians support tighter regulation of sports betting advertising. For example, 71% want to see less gambling advertising at sporting events, 77% believe that the government should take measures to reduce the amount of sports betting advertising, and 81% believe that sports betting needs to be more tightly regulated or restricted.
Most adults (92%) believe it is important to speak to children about the risks involved in sports betting, but only one in five adults (20%) have done so and just over one third (37%) feel informed enough to have these conversations. The majority of survey respondents (80%) reported they had never seen any messaging about keeping children safe around sports betting.
The survey shows that that South Australians recognise the potential risks around sports betting, have strong negative attitudes towards gambling advertising, and generally agree that it is important for young people to understand the risks. However, many South Australians also believe that gambling on sport is a part of the Australian culture that is never going to change, and some did not understand why it is important to keep children and adolescents at arms-length from sports betting. South Australians support government action to regulate sports betting advertising, are willing to speak to those in their social networks about the risks involved in sports betting, and want to learn more about ways to keep children safe.
The South Australian Government has responded by implementing the Here For The Game initiative to disrupt the normalisation of betting in sport and educate the community about risky betting and how to keep themselves safe. You can learn more at: hereforthegame.com.au
* Researchers - Browne, M., Bryden, G.M., Russell, A.M.T., Rockloff, M., Hing, N., Dittman, C., & Lastella, M.