Australia releases “most comprehensive study” of online gambling habits

australia-online-gambling-researchAustralia is home to the world’s most avid gamblers, as evidenced by the country’s habit of routinely topping per capita spending charts. The most recent tally by H2 Gambling Capital indicated the average Australian lost over $1k to gambling each year, narrowly outpacing Singaporeans for the top spot. Australian adults spent an average of $17.52 per week on gambling, more than alcohol ($10.99) and gasoline ($15.27).

Gambling Research Australia, a problem gambling initiative involving federal and state governments, has just issued a lengthy report on Australians’ online gambling habits. (Read the 432-page behemoth here.) The study involved a telephone survey of 15k Aussie adult residents in late 2011 and an online survey in 2012 involving nearly 4,600 participants. The study’s authors describe their research the most comprehensive examination of online gambling ever conducted in Australia.

The study pegged the adult gambling participation rate for the previous 12 months at 64%, with 8% having engaged in at least one form of online gambling. The prevalence of problem gambling was 0.6% and the study’s authors concluded there was insufficient evidence to conclude that online gambling was connected with elevated rates of problem gambling.

Researchers determined that online gamblers were far more likely to be males (62% in the telephone survey, 77% in the online survey) and around six years younger than their land-based counterparts with a mean age of 39 years. They were also less likely to be married but more likely to hold a university degree and to be working full-time with household incomes between $90k and $119k. Online gamblers were also more likely to consider themselves professional (2.5%) or semi-pro (7%) gamblers.

Online gamblers generally held more positive views on gambling than land-based gamblers. They also enjoyed more forms of gambling (sports betting, horse racing, poker) than land-based gamblers who mainly preferred electronic gaming machines (EGM) like Australia’s ubiquitous video poker (pokies) machines. While 81% of online gamblers also gambled offline, 78% of online gamblers did more than half their total gambling online. Around 10% gambled either online or offline exclusively.

Over half (52%) of online gamblers said online gambling sites should be allowed to advertise via traditional media promotions, while 41% approved of online gambling promotion at live sporting events and 25% approved of such promotions during televised sporting events. Just 26% of online gamblers said such promotions shouldn’t be permitted, compared to 66% of land-based gamblers. Online gamblers were found to have “significantly more accurate knowledge” of what was and wasn’t legal online.

Sports and race betting were the most popular forms of online gambling, followed by lotteries and poker. Online gamblers reported placing over 80% of sports and racing wagers exclusively online, while 57% of casino table game players, 43% of lottery players and 26% of poker players played exclusively online.

‘Only a small proportion” of online gamblers played EGMs online and just 17% of these gamblers exclusively played EGMs online, “the lowest sole and average use of the interactive mode” beyond instant scratch tickets. The study’s authors suggested this was in part due to the country’s lack of legally authorized online slots options (although online poker is also verboten in the country). Perhaps the pokies’ ubiquity has simply turned off the younger generation of Aussie gamblers.

Desktop and laptop computers were the overwhelming choice (86%) to access online gambling sites, with just 10% reporting gambling via mobile phones and 4% via other devices, such as tablets.

Convenience was cited by 63% of participants as their main reason for choosing online gambling. The other most popular benefits were competitive advantages over land-based gambling options, the physical comfort of gambling from home and privacy.

Online gamblers said they chose gambling sites based primarily on their competitive offering, followed by a site’s reputation, variety of betting options and fast payout rates. While most online gamblers preferred domestically licensed sites and one-fifth expressed concern over the safety of their funds on internationally licensed sites, 33% said they weren’t averse to playing with international sites. The study cites government figures estimating 60% of Australia’s total online gambling activity takes place with international sites.

Over half (54%) of online gamblers had accounts with just one site, with 21% having accounts on two sites and the rest having accounts on multiple sites. Credit cards (36%) were the most popular form of funding online accounts, followed by debit cards (26%), various types of e-wallets (19%) and direct bank transfer (14%).