AGRC COVID-19 Gambling Research Biased, Says RWA

The newest COVID-19 gambling research by the Australian Gambling Research Center (AGRC) outlined a staggering increase in the gambling activities in the country. But the research caught the attention of the Responsible Wagering Australia who rejected the results, deeming the research biased.

The AGRC COVID-19 Gambling Research

A recently revealed survey by the Australian Gambling Research Center (AGRC) titled “Gambling in Australia during Covid-19” outlined an increase of online gambling during the pandemic. 2,019 gamblers were participating in the survey. The participants were asked to take part of the survey via e-mail, social media advertising or various news outlets and everyone that completed the online survey entered into a lottery with the possibility to win an AUS$200 voucher.

According to the AGRC research, online gambling popularity grew from 62% before the COVID-19 pandemic to 78% during the pandemic. The paper outlined those gamblers who gambled once a week increased from 79% to 83%. Another increase was observed in gamblers who gambled four or more times a week. That percentage of the responders increased from 23% before the pandemic to 32% during the pandemic.

Furthermore, the AGRC paper evaluated the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) of the participants, revealing that 79% of the participants are at-risk gamblers. Out of that number of participants, an estimate of 30% have already experienced problem gambling, outlined the research. And this is what caught the attention of Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA). According to Brent Jackson, RWA CEO, the survey was way too small to suggest that problem gambling significantly increased during the COVID-19 period.

The RWA Disagrees with the Results of AGRC’s Research

The RWA released a statement today, deeming the research by AGRC “biased”. In that statement, Jackson stressed that skewed results are the only thing that can be derived when the pool of research subjects which consists of nearly 80% of gamblers at-risk. Furthermore, he outlined that according to a report from 2015 by AGRC, the Australian adult population had an approximate 7.9% gamblers at-risk. Jackson continued by saying that if the latest report’s data is to be believed, there has been a 900% increase in the number of at-risk gamblers for 5 years.

The inherent bias in the research subjects used in this study show how easily it is to create alarmist headlines,”

Responsible Wagering Australia CEO, Brent Jackson

Jackson further criticized the pool of “key experts” who shared their opinion in the AGRC research. He outlined as “deeply concerning” the fact that anonymous experts help in drawing conclusions of government-funded research. Moreover, he stressed that the suggested policy changes by the experts represent “wishes for things to happen“. RWA’s CEO argued that a wish is not a foundation for public policy. He added that it is disappointing for “such a skewed research design” supported by anonymous experts to be put forward as serious policy evidence.

According to Jackson, any degree of gambling-related harm is nothing but bad news for Australia. He outlined that the government and industries must commit to evidence-based policy discussions. In conclusion, Jackson said the use of credible data is the first step in any policy discussion.

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