Background: There is a lack of qualitative gambling research on lived experience, help-seeking, and gamblers and affected others’ views on the regulatory environment in the Northern Territory (NT), Australia. This study provides 1) lived experience of individuals who reported experiencing harms from gambling, 2) insights into help-seeking for gambling issues, 3) and people’s views on current legislation on gambling in the NT. The results of this study begin to establish an evidence base that could be used to inform targeted interventions for people experiencing harms from gambling in the NT.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a targeted selection of respondents from the 2015 and 2018 NT Gambling Prevalence and Wellbeing Surveys. The sample (n = 27; age 18+ years; Aboriginal (The term of ‘Aboriginal’ has used been used throughout the manuscript to reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Indigenous, or First Nations people for purposes of brevity. We respect the diversity among these populations.) and Non-Aboriginal) included weekly (online and venue-based electronic gambling machine (EGM)) gamblers, non-regular gamblers, and those negatively affected by others’ gambling. A Framework Analysis approach was used for data analysis. Appropriate ethics approval was obtained.
Results: Negative impacts and harms from gambling were experienced by both gamblers and non-gamblers. These included monetary losses, relationship conflicts, emotional distress, and decrements to health. A lack of self-realisation of gambling issues and awareness of the available services, shame, and embarrassment, were reported as the main barriers to help-seeking. Where help was sought, it was primarily informal (e.g., family) and was rarely preventive. In many instances, self-help strategies were successful in controlling one’s own gambling. Gamblers suggested regulations should set limits on the daily number of hours of playing, the bet size, and reduced access to EGM. The need for strengthening the existing awareness and education interventions was emphasised.
Conclusions: Viewing the findings from a public health lens, targeted approaches based on specific circumstances may have the potential to minimise harms from gambling, but only for those already experiencing harms. The treatment, policy, and regulatory approaches need to be tailored to address the causes and impacts of harms experienced by people.