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Increasing harms for bingo players: digitisation, commercialisation and regulatory inadequacy: a multi-site case study

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Background: Bingo is often understood as a low-harm form of gambling. This view has been challenged by a growing body of literature identifying gambling harm to bingo players in a range of countries. In this study, we aimed to identify which conditions enabled, facilitated, intensified or mitigated gambling harm for bingo players in three populations in Victoria in the context of corporate, technological and regulatory changes. Methods: Our qualitative study investigated experiences of bingo-related gambling harm in three populations in Victoria, Australia where bingo was popular and structural disadvantage common: Indigenous people in the east, Pacific people in the state’s north and older people on low or fixed incomes in the capital. Data was generated through interviews with 53 bingo players and 13 stakeholders as well as 12 participant observations of bingo sessions. Results: We found that while bingo is overwhelmingly positive for many players, a minority of bingo players and their families experience notable harm. Harm was generated through traditional paper-based bingo games, new technologies such as tablet-based bingo and by the widespread tactic of placing bingo sessions in close proximity to harmful electronic gambling machines. Overall, the risk of harm to bingo players appears to be escalating due to commercial, technological and regulatory changes. Conclusions: These changes can be better managed by regulators: reforms are needed to safeguard bingo’s distinct character as a lower-risk form of gambling at a time when it, and its players, are under threat. Significantly, we found that harm to bingo players is intensified by factors external to gambling such as racialised poverty and adverse life events. Strategies that recognise these factors and grapple with gambling harm to bingo players are needed.


This work was supported by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.


Publication Date



BMC Public Health





Article Number

ARTN 884







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