Gambling ‘fuels homelessness’

Gambling ‘fuels homelessness’


Simon Mayhew




The dangers of liberalised gambling are exposed in research published today, which reveals relaxed gaming laws can cause homelessness.


As the UK government prepares to reform national gaming laws, a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council makes a direct link between homelessness among Australia’s over 50s and problems caused by the country’s gambling liberalisation.


The research by academics from the University of Sheffield looked at homelessness problems among over 50s in Boston, Massachusetts; Melbourne, Australia; and four English cities.


It revealed patterns of homelessness in over 50s to be broadly similar, except in Australia where it identified a link between homelessness and gambling that appeared not to exist in the other study areas.


Electronic gaming machines were introduced in the Australian state of Victoria in 1992, since when gambling has spread, the report claims.


Of the 125 homeless people from Australia surveyed as part of the study, 38% mentioned gambling as a cause of their problems. In England and Massachusetts only 4% cited this as a reason.


The findings will be a stark warning to the government of the dangers of liberalised gambling. A gambling bill planned for the autumn will pave the way for a series of large regional casinos.


Professor Tony Warnes, director of the Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing, who led the research, said: ‘This demonstrates that when you liberalise gambling laws and allow high street gambling machines to grow in number, there is a downside.


‘I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, but this is evidence that some less strong people can get into serious difficulties as a result of gambling problems.’


But a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is leading the reform of gambling, said Australia’s experiences were unlikely to be repeated in the UK.


‘We are removing restrictions on some kinds of casino, but it won’t lead to the problems they’ve had in Australia, which has the worst problem gambling rates in the world,’ he said.


‘They made the mistake in Australia of liberalising gambling laws without effective balances, so now these machines are everywhere. We have learned from Australia by restricting certain types of machines and where they can go. You cannot draw a valid comparison between the two countries.’


Source: The Guardian