Gambling Addiction in the Australian Workplace

well dressed man gambling in a casino

Gambling can have a terrible effect on a business! But, there are ways that you can limit the damage that is caused! The steps below can help you out!

There is no harm in placing the occasional bet, whether it's football or horses. What matters is that it's manageable and doesn’t negatively affect other areas of your life like your health, work and ultimately your career. But, research has found that there are several ways gambling can adversely affect the workplace. 

In Australia, it is estimated that up to 80 percent of citizens participate in some form of gambling every year. It is most evident in Australia because it’s a country that provides some of the greatest freedoms to its citizens and as a result Australians lose more money to gambling than any other nationality. But, this gambling addiction, is fast becoming a major problem in the workplace.

A government report shows that in 2009, 73 per cent of Victorians (people from Victoria) reported participating in gambling in the last 12 months. Out of those, 7 percent were individuals with a gambling problem (approximately 30 thousand adults) and 2.4 percent were considered at risk (roughly 100 thousand adults). Overall, this means almost one out of every 100 employees potentially having an issue with gambling, and equates to nearly 10 out of every 100 employees being affected by someone experiencing a problem with gambling. The study shows that it’s not only the gambler who is facing a problem but also the people in their lives – and probably working with them.

Negative Effects of Gambling in the Workplace

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What’s rather interesting is that gambling in the workplace occurs across many industries – including banking and finance, retail, building, manufacturing and transport. It also takes place during work hours (and lunch breaks) as well as before and after work and affects employees’ performance.

Employees have already reported using employer’s equipment for gambling purposes such as computers, tablets and mobile phones, which proves that the situation is getting out of control and companies in Australia need to do something about it to reduce its impact. Thus far, these are some of the consequences that have been observed in regards to gambling in the workplace::

  • Absenteeism (due to days off).
  • Extended breaks used to gamble.
  • Reduced productivity.
  • Reduced quality of work.
  • Increased fatigue.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Poor morale.
  • Fraud and theft.

These adverse effects highlight some of the many risks to the workplace associated with the gambling. Employees who gamble may suffer harm including psychological and financial distress; lose focus and interest in work which can lead to decreased performance. As such it can create an unhealthy work environment to work in. According to the study, the impact of gambling on the organisation is huge:

  • Reduced productivity from employees who gamble and colleagues who cover for those employees.
  • Ineffectiveness caused by disruption to work patterns.
  • Tiredness and mistakes (resulting from fatigue).
  • Reduced quality of work potentially resulting in customer complaints or dissatisfaction.
  • Dishonesty and mistrust amongst employees
  • Low self-esteem and associated conditions including depression
  • Loss of skills, knowledge and capacity due to job turnover

But, as research confirms whether this takes place largely depends on how often employees gamble and what type of gambling they practice. A study from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation shows that certain kinds of gambling are associated with greater risks than others, including poker, table games offered at casinos, and sports betting. The least dangerous forms of gambling include buying lotto tickets and playing bingo.

How to Improve the Situation

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The Foundation recommends employers develop a workplace policy on gambling that is specific to their particular industry and/or working environment, taking into consideration the workplace culture. Every company should come up with guidelines as to how they can effectively tackle issues concerning gambling and address the risks associated with problematic gambling behaviour.

Setting up policies to address this important issue, is the responsibility of employers because they have a legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment. If gambling is threating the safety of employees, then it means employees won’t be able to deliver work to the expected standards or even feel like doing so. Some of the signs employers should look for to assess whether an employee is gambling are:

  • Time: arriving late or leaving work early, extended lunch hours, unexplained disappearances.
  • Productivity: irritability, poor concentration, excessive use of work telephone, mobile etc.
  • Financial Constrains: borrowing money from colleagues, volunteering for additional shifts.
  • Criminal Activity: stealing money or goods from work colleagues and company, embezzlement.

Employers need to take this issue more seriously while educating staff on the dangers of gambling. If there is no clear policy in place, the work environment will suffer greatly not only regarding absenteeism and productivity but also concerning loss of skill and any business expenses involved.

Do you know any company that has implemented an effective gambling policy? Let us know in the comments section below…