New South Wales show a drop in problem gamblers

New survey shows a small but encouraging drop

Staying in the land of Oz, the New South Wales government has reported a small but encouraging decline in the number of problem gamblers in the territory.

The gambling study was conducted by telephone and then included in the NSW Population Health Survey at the request of Gaming and Racing Minister Kevin Greene, and found 0.4 percent of the state's adult population are problem gamblers, down from the last survey in 2006 that showed the rate to be 0.8 percent. 2.5 percent were low-risk gamblers and 1.2 percent were moderate-risk gamblers.

The statistics position NSW lower than the state of Victoria in the problem gambling stakes, and on a par with South Australia and Queensland.

Greene told the Sydney Morning Herald that the findings showed measures introduced by the NSW government to help problem gamblers were making an impact. Its Responsible Gambling Fund, taken from a levy on casino profits, has poured money into front-line and telephone counselling services.

Measures introduced last year included further capping machine numbers and banning credit card cash withdrawals from ATMs in gaming venues.

''These findings are very encouraging and we hope it's a sign that our high-quality counselling service and strict harm minimisation laws are making a real difference,'' Greene said.

One academic who remained unconvinced by the study was Dr. Charles Livingstone, a senior lecturer in Health Social Sciences at Monash University, and a board member of International Gambling Studies, who said that telephone surveys of problem gambling tended to have a selection bias.

His interpretation of gambling data collected in NSW in the past decade showed a problem gambling rate about 2.5 percent in the adult population, which had remained largely unchanged. ''Gambling continues to be very much out of control in NSW,'' Dr Livingstone said.

The SMH also points out that the survey also contradicts the findings of a draft Productivity Commission report released last October, which found that measures introduced by state governments to limit problem gambling in the past decade had been largely ineffective.

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