Young Australians Gamble “Hard and Fast”

Young Australians gamble a lot

It's not just older people that gamble

Gambling has become almost "normal" in Australian society and has become more common in our advertising. But harmful affects of gambling, problem gambling and addiction is often not talked about or acknowledged.[1]


InfoGraphic Young Gamblers


Problem gambling is more likely among people aged 18 to 30 than for other age groups. A study by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that up to 5% of young people in Australia will develop problems with gambling before the age of 25. The majority of young Australians gamble before they reach adulthood; between 60 -80% of teenagers will have gambled in some way. Teenagers are believed to be five times more likely than adults, to develop gambling problems, and almost 10 times more likely to be at risk.[2]

“There is a lot of denial and many young people probably think ... that it couldn’t possibly be a problem for them because they are too young.”

Australians spend more per capita on gambling than any other country. Read more about gambling in Australia here.


Young adults gamble a lot and it is mostly on pokies

Young people engage in all types of gambling, e.g pokies, horses, dogs, sports, lottery, scatchies, casino, home card games and video games. The most common type of gambling among young people (18-30) in Australia is still pokies. However, national research shows that online gambling (particularly sports) is rapidly growing, especially in this younger age groups.[3]

“Of course I tried it when I turned 18…”

Our survey of 18-30 year olds in the ACT found:


of participants had gambled before


had tried pokies

Research suggests males and females tend to be drawn to different types of gambling, affected at different ages, and that young males are most likely to develop an addiction. However the research in Australia also shows that people from all different backgrounds, genders and socioeconomic status gamble and can be harmed by gambling.[4]

Pokie Machine

Sometimes people might be impacted by gambling harm alone, but commonly people also face substance use and mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression, at the same time.[5] This means it can be quite hard for a person to recognise when they are being impacted by harm from gambling, and also for professionals to recognise this harm.

“I went to a doctor for medication for depression but not for gambling.”

Gambling behaviours among young adults

Gambling harm (and addiction) is generally very hidden among all age groups in our society. It is also often not recognised as something that affects younger adults.
Gambling patterns vary a lot between gambling types and people, but there do tend to be some common behaviours among young adults.

18-30 year olds in the ACT identified:

  • Young people tend to start gambling socially with friends or partners, and then continue alone
  • Many also visit different venues, whereas older people may tend to use the same venues
  • Young people gamble ‘hard and fast’, in the evening and on weekends, in short periods of time

Very few people affected by gambling harm seek professional help, especially young adults, despite the availability of specialised professional help. Often when people do access assistance for gambling harm, they have gone to seek help for other problems, such as substance use, or mental health concerns. However, in many cases gambling harm is not identified when people seek help for other problems, so people often don't receive any professional help for gambling.

Life Ring

References and Links:
  1. Delfabbro, P. 2012, Australasian gambling review (1992–2011), 5th edn, Independent Gambling Authority, Adelaide.
  2. McGaurr, Y (ACYS) 2013 Youth Gambling in Australia,
  3. Mark, D. 2016, There is a tsunami coming sports betting leaving lives in ruin. ABC News
  4. Purdie, N, et al 2011, Gambling and young people in Australia, Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation,
  5. Cowlishaw, S, 2014 Comorbid problem gambling in substance users seeking treatment,