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The Development of Empirically Derived Australian Low-Risk Gambling Limits

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journal contribution
posted on 08.03.2021, 03:46 by Nicki A Dowling, George J Youssef, Christopher Greenwood, Stephanie S Merkouris, Aino Suomi, Robin Room
This study derived a set of Australian low-risk gambling limits and explored the relative and absolute risk associated with exceeding these limits. Secondary analysis of population-representative Tasmanian and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) cross-sectional (11,597 respondents) and longitudinal studies (2027 respondents) was conducted. Balancing sensitivity and specificity, the limits were: gambling frequency of 20–30 times per year; gambling expenditure of AUD $380–$615 per year (USD $240–$388 per year); gambling expenditure comprising 0.83–1.68% of gross personal income; and two types of gambling activities per year. All limits, except number of activities, predicted subsequent harm, with limits related to gambling expenditure consistently the best-performing. Exceeding the limits generally conferred a higher degree of relative and absolute risk, with gamblers exceeding the limits being 3–20 times more likely to experience harm than those who do not, and having a 5–17% risk of experiencing harm. Only 7–12% of gamblers exceeding the limits actually experienced harm. Gambling consumption lower than the limits also conferred a considerable amount of harm. Using a relative risk method, this study derived similar limits from disparate Australian states and territories. These limits can serve as working guidelines for the consideration of researchers, clinicians, and policy makers, but need to be subject to further rigorous empirical investigation.


We acknowledge the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance for funding the second and third Social and Economic Impact Study of Gambling in Tasmania and the Tasmanian Longitudinal Gambling Survey; and the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission for funding the 2014 Survey on Gambling, Health, and Wellbeing in the ACT. We acknowledge our colleagues at ACIL Allen Consulting, the Social Research Centre, and the Centre for Gambling Research (Australian National University) who were co-investigators on these initial studies.


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