Employees who are addicted to gambling can negatively affect their workplace. Now you might think that isn’t happening in your workplace or that it isn’t a huge problem. However, there have been reports that through the pandemic, gambling increased significantly, and continues today.

If your employees engage in excessive gambling, they are likely to affect workplace productivity, morale and your company’s reputation.  Also, addicted employees affect their work colleagues and those near them, and all may suffer harm, including psychological and financial distress.

This article draws on a Victorian Government report that investigates the impact of gambling on the workplace and provides actions that employers can take to address the risk.

The Statistics Show Gambling is on the Rise

The national statistics, collected in 2016-17 show an average increase across most gambling activities by around 7%; however, total sports betting expenditure in Australia increased by over 15% from $921 million to $1.062 billion. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 160,000 Australians suffer from significant addiction problems, and a further 230,000 to 350,000 are at risk.

However, during the Covid-19 lockdowns in Australia, males, aged under 30 and in full-time employment increased their participation in online gambling in the month of April 2020. They bet on sports and online pokies 46% more than they had the month before. Also, during this time, other adults across all demographics increased their online betting by 10%.

Males under the age of 30 in full-time employment have increased their online gambling by 46% during the COVID-19 lockdown.

An NSW Government report estimates that 19% of people with gambling problems report losing time from work or study. What’s more, 25% say that their betting adversely affects their work.

Are Our Employees Gambling While at Work?

You might not think that your employees gamble during working hours but there is evidence that they do. They use their employer’s computer, tablet or mobile phone equipment. In a 2011 Australian study, 9.5% of gamblers report using their mobile phones to place a bet. Given that most workers have a mobile phone with them at work, access to gambling sites is effortless.

Gambling may occur without the knowledge of employers or colleagues in the workplace.

There are three ways gambling can have an impact on the workplace.

  1. Reducing productivity – Employees who gamble during working hours, using their smartphone to place bets or play online poker, for example, are not focusing on work and are not effectively using work time.
  2. Increasing absence – Employees who gamble outside of work hours, for instance, on the pokies, may be absent more often, take extended lunch breaks to gamble or even miss work.
  3. Theft and fraud – Employees who have access to company finances may abuse their position to fund their gambling addiction. They may also request an advance on paychecks, borrow from colleagues, and misuse company resources. Also, workplaces may be similarly affected when an employee has a family member with a problem.

Between 2008 and 2010, employers were found to be the largest victims of gambling-related crime, with $77 million lost.

What Can Employers Do?

Given the recent significant increase in gambling activities, now is the time to examine your workplace policies and to have in place risk mitigation strategies to protect your employees and your company.

Your policy should regulate gambling at work or during working hours, by prohibiting gambling using company resources, e.g. telephones, computers and tablets, installing of gambling applications on company resources, and engaging in gambling through social media platforms.

All organisations have a duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment. In the case of gambling, employers should:

  • Provide information and appropriate education to employees about how to gamble responsibly
  • Train employees on the signs to look out for if someone has a problem and details of employee assistance programs
  • Ensure that employees are aware of the available support services if they or someone they care about is experiencing problems.

Training on Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling can be a difficult issue to raise with your employees, but there are some positive actions you can take.

  1. Normalise the discussion by acknowledging that sometimes having an awkward conversation is necessary for the workplace.
  2. Express facts, thoughts, feelings and beliefs without placing blame.
  3. Focus on “I” rather than “you” statements.
  4. Listen actively to what your employees have to say by paraphrasing and summarising.
  5. Be understanding and acknowledging the emotions that are present.
  6. Plan your responses based on how you think your employees are likely to react.

Tap into Safety can help you broach the subject and train on the signs of gambling addiction and how to address the problem. The mental health side of the Training Platform has a substantial set of modules across a range of topics, including one dedicated to gambling addiction. The modules teach coping strategies and encourage employees to seek further help and support.

To Conclude

Gambling is on the rise, and has seen some significant increases in online use. It’s primarily a problem with males under the age of 30 with the latest statistics showing a 46% increase during the pandemic. Where it becomes a problem is when it spills over into your workplace.

Employees who engage in excessive gambling, are likely to affect workplace productivity, morale and your company’s reputation.  Also, addicted employees affect their work colleagues and those near them, and all may suffer harm, including psychological and financial distress.

You need clear policies on gambling while at work and the use of online apps. You need to provide training on how to gamble responsibly, information about the signs of addiction to look out for, and where employees can seek help and support.

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