Gaming Venues Employees with Gambling Problems

It has long been known that gaming venue staff are at greater risk of developing gambling problems than the general population. But why is this?

A recent article by Southern Cross University researchers in the Journal of Gambling Issues (Issue 21, July 2008) highlights the risks of gaming machine venue employees developing gambling problems. The article "How Working in a Gaming Venue can lead to Problem Gambling: The Experiences of Six Gaming Venue Staff" by Nerilee Hing and Helen Breen arises from a larger study being conducted in Queensland.

Factors related to problem gambling

Factors identified in the development of problem gambling among gaming venue staff are:

  • Close interaction with gamblers
  • Frequent exposure and access to gambling
  • Influence of fellow employees
  • Influence of management
  • Workplace stress
  • Hours of work
  • Frequent exposure to gambling marketing and promotions
  • Lack of effective staff training

Experiences of staff

Gaming area staff watch customers on the machines "so you quickly learn what pays... you are continuously watching, if someone gets a free game, all the staff look, see how much they win". Some gaming staff believe they have "insider knowledge" and would "watch, watch, watch, and then jump on something that has been played".

Many gaming venue employees are permitted to gamble on the premises outside of working hours and while not in work uniform. One said that before working in gaming venues "she was never a gambler, not even a scratchie" but started while working there "because you see people win, and some people won't tell you how much they've lost... that was what encouraged me. I know when I started at the RSL (club), I put $2 in a pokie one day, and I won $600... and it was... wow!"

Not all staff who develop gambling problems work directly in gaming. One worked as a chef in a gambling venue. During breaks in work and between shifts she would play the machines. She had never heard of responsible gambling training but had read the problem gambling warning notices on the machines. She told her boss of her gambling problem and "asked her to tell me to get off the machines if she sees me playing them... but then as my friend she doesn't feel it is her business". The employee has considered self-exclusion from the gaming area, "but I don't know whether it would be enforced, as the friendship kind of gets in the way."

Managers and supervisory staff can also develop problems. A TAB supervisor had done some responsible gambling training which made her aware that she had a gambling problem, but she continued to gamble as a way of dealing with her workplace stress. She felt that the only way she would give up gambling was to leave the industry.

Staff felt management policies on staff gambling had a strong influence. One said: "in one hotel I worked, we were allowed to gamble, and I gambled. And here we are not allowed... and I don't find myself gambling as much." Another said that managers who gambled themselves after work set an example for staff to follow.

One supervisor said that access to cash at work "is tempting. A lot of the time they've gambled all their money and are trying to get their rent. Keno and TAB are what I call the quiet achievers for that reason. A lot of staff do credit bet on them; I've caught staff doing it. It's easy."

What can be done to help staff avoid gambling problems?

The researchers identified a number of ways in which gaming venue operators can encourage responsible gambling and discourage problem gambling for their staff.

Firstly is a no gambling in the workplace policy. All staff interviewed felt this would reduce easy access to gambling and the temptation to gamble.

Secondly, staff identified a need for more education and training in responsible gambling, particularly the risks of developing gambling problems.

Other suggestions included the promotion of staff social and leisure activities that didn't involve gambling.

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