Background: Harmful gambling has been identified as an important public health issue that affects individuals, families and the broader community. One gambling product, electronic gambling machines (EGMs), has been associated with significant gambling harm in Australia. There has been limited research that has explored community perceptions of EGMs and attitudes towards reform. This study, conducted in NSW, Australia, aimed to explore community use of EGM venues (clubs and hotels containing EGMs), attitudes towards EGMs and whether the use of these venues influenced attitudes towards EGM reform.
Methods: An online survey was conducted with 500 adults aged 16 years and over, representative of the population for age and gender. Discrete choice and open-ended questions were used to gather data on gambling behaviours, use of and attitudes towards EGMs and EGM venues and support for gambling harm reduction measures.
Results: Three quarters of participants had visited an EGM venue in the previous year. Participants who had attended such venues were significantly more likely to use EGMs at least once per month. Participants attended EGM venues for a range of reasons including use of non-gambling facilities such as restaurants, the social aspects of the venue and ease of access to the venue. Some participants also attended EGM venues specifically for the gambling facilities. Most participants identified some negative impacts of EGMs for local communities and were supportive of measures to reduce the number of EGMs and prevent children's exposure to EGMs in such venues.
Conclusions: This study shows a high level of support for EGM reform amongst both individuals who attend EGM venues and also those who do not. There is potential for government to further regulate EGMs and the environments where they are located.