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Study shows economic abuse is exacerbated by gambling
Posted in Media releases

Study shows economic abuse is exacerbated by gambling

Wednesday, 30th September 2020

New research published today by ANROWS shows that while gambling does not directly cause intimate partner violence (IPV), it exacerbates it in serious ways.

Led by Professor Nerilee Hing from Central Queensland University, the research project studied gambling-related IPV, exploring the impacts of both men’s and women’s gambling problems.

The team interviewed both men and women involved in relationships where gambling was present and IPV was perpetrated by the male partner.

These interviews showed that problem gambling exacerbates violence against women due to the severe stresses it places on individuals and relationships.

Professor Hing explained, “Gambling reinforces the gendered drivers of violence. Where you already have rigid gender roles, men’s control of decision-making, limits placed on women’s independence, and men condoning violence towards women, then a gambling problem greatly intensifies the frequency and severity of IPV”.

Many of the women interviewed for the study described having a male partner who was already abusive, where his problem gambling then greatly increased his violent behaviour.

However, violence against women also increased when it was the woman who had the gambling problem. In these cases, women frequently reported that their abusive partners blamed the gambling for all the problems in their relationship, and used it as an excuse for insults, threats, punches, slaps, stalking and rape.

The research also found that women experiencing violence use gambling as a means of physically and emotionally escaping their partner’s abuse. Some women seek out gambling venues as safe spaces: this feeds a cycle that reinforces both their gambling and the violence.

In many geographic locations the women said they had no alternative safe place to go.

The report, titled The relationship between gambling and intimate partner violence against women, also emphasises the key role of economic abuse in understanding the relationship between gambling and IPV. Nearly all the women in the study whose partner had a gambling problem described being subjected to severe economic abuse, including economic control and economic exploitation.

Seeking ways to fund a worsening gambling problem, men prevent their partners from accessing money, finding out information about household finances, or having a say in how money is spent. They also coerce their partners into providing money to fund their gambling.

“He would take my bank card. He would take my money. He’d just take whatever he wanted … He tapped into my PayPal account”, a study participant said.

Gambling and IPV are both highly stigmatised issues. The study found that stigma and shame compounded women’s distress and led many to keep their partner’s or their own gambling hidden for a long time. This acted as a barrier to seeking help.

The research also showed that gambling-related harm—including economic abuse—is being enabled by gambling operators. “Many women and service providers criticised gambling venues for largely ignoring problem gambling behaviours,” said Professor Hing.

The women gave examples of venues ignoring clear indicators of problem gambling, such as when they or their partners spent all their wages, gambled away a lump sum payout, gambled every day of the week or, in one case, made seven withdrawals from a venue ATM in a single gambling session.

The findings have led ANROWS to make a number of recommendations for policymakers and practitioners. These include alternative gambling-free recreational spaces for women, and increased recognition of the problem.

“It is important that the link between gambling and intimate partner violence is properly understood,” said ANROWS CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow. “This research clearly shows that a lack of understanding by service providers and gambling venues means that IPV—especially perpetrators’ use of economic abuse—is going unrecognised.”

Given the prevalence of both gambling problems and domestic and family violence in Australia, this research highlights an important and often overlooked relationship.

Australians are the world’s biggest gamblers: we have the highest per-capita gambling losses, losing around $24 billion in total every year, and gambling problems are widespread.

For further information, contact Michele Robinson at ANROWS
on +61 0417 780 556 or email michele.robinson@anrows.org.au.


Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) is a not-for-profit independent national research organisation.

ANROWS is an initiative of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

ANROWS is the only such research organisation in Australia.

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