The Big Gamble

Determinants of Health

‘The Big Gamble’: Causes, consequences and public health advocacy responses to the normalisation of gambling. (Australian Research Council Discovery Grant – Prof Samantha Thomas, Prof Susan Balandin, Dr Hannah Pitt)


The prevention and reduction of gambling harm is an urgent public health priority in Australia. To date, most research has focused on treatment models for problem gamblers, with limited understanding of the processes that contribute to harmful gambling. While numerous reports have highlighted the risks associated with gambling industry tactics on the behaviours of vulnerable populations, there is limited systematic evidence about the impact of these strategies on the normalisation of gambling attitudes and behaviours.


This project is focused on the commercial determinants of health. It explores how promotional strategies used by the gambling industry influences the social acceptance of gambling amongst different population segments. The project investigates how these strategies may shape the cultural meaning that individuals assign to gambling products, and ultimately how they may influence gambling behaviour. The project is significant because it develops practical public health advocacy strategies to respond to gambling industry tactics, as well as policy recommendations to reduce, and ultimately prevent, gambling harm.


This project provides an evidence base for policy makers to consider the potential impact of gambling industry tactics on children and young people, women, and older adults. Future local, national and international policies and prevention strategies require an understanding of how the gambling industry targets different groups and how these strategies link with socio-cultural values and norms. Our research will provide evidence to assist in developing robust policy and advocacy responses to gambling industry tactics.


Prof Mike Daube (Curtin University)

Prof Melanie Randle (University of Wollongong)

Prof Sylvia Kairouz (Concordia University, Canada)

Prof Rebecca Cassidy (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Dr Sean Cowlishaw (University of Melbourne)

The proposed project explores the normalisation of gambling through detailed qualitative case studies of the lived experiences of three population subgroups – Young People (8-15 years old), Women (aged 18-40 years), and Older Adults (55 years and older) in the state of Victoria, Australia. The project aims to:

  1. Determine how industry promotional tactics may influence the normalisation of gambling.
  2. Explore whether processes of symbolic consumption (whereby marketing tactics interact with existing social patterns) influence gambling meanings and norms.
  3. Develop public health prevention strategies to respond to the factors contributing to the normalisation of gambling.

“Our research is gathering increasing evidence that shows that how gambling is advertised affects the most vulnerable people in our community and that it needs to be treated as an important public health issue.”

Professor Samantha Thomas

For more information about the project, please contact Prof Samantha Thomas