There were 19 participants and 18 interviews conducted in this study. The age of participants ranged from 20 to 70 years old with an average age of 44 years. Just over half of the sample were male (n = 10, 52.6%).
Attendance at community gambling venues
All participants were familiar with pubs and/or clubs, with many participants able to name at least one specific community venue that included gambling that they had either attended or were aware of. However, participants had difficulty recalling the frequency of their attendance. Some participants had trouble specifically quantifying how often they went and used terms such as “a lot”, “sometimes”, or “not very often”. Other participants could conceptualise how frequently they went to these venues by describing key events for which they attended, including exercise classes, birthdays, sporting event, and annual events such as a war memorial day. Others were more specific about their attendance, with answers demonstrating that attending these venues were part of weekly routines. For example, one woman said she went every Saturday, and another woman used her routine as a measure of how frequently she went to the RSL with her husband:
We do it like once a fortnight maybe. We go on, on my payday, we will go that’s our social get out together. – Female.
Although each participant had different attendance experiences, the venue they attended often influenced how often they went and who they went with. For example, some participants described family members, partners, friends, or support workers taking them to venues, with only a few stating that they went independently to a venue either by themselves or with friends. Participants who went by themselves mostly went to those venues that they were able to access by walking, stating that they went to venues that were easy to get to and close to where they lived. While most participants went to venues in their local neighbourhood, one participant went to a pub that he had previously lived near to in order to meet up with friends. While he had to take two trains to get to the venue, he considered it to be “a nice trek” and that it gave him “something to do”. Another, described experiencing harm from gambling, recounted how she had previously attended an RSL by arranging a taxi to pick her up: “10 dollars there, 10 dollars back”. She also recalled that she felt this was the “safest place” for her to go. However, this participant described that after experiencing problems with gambling in the venue, she now chose to go to a pub closer to her house that did not contain gambling products.
Age played a role in decision making about which venue to attend. For example, older participants preferred going to RSLs or clubs, as they perceived that they were “friendlier than the hotels”. One participant described going to a few different venues with friends to access different things that they liked in different venues:
… we like to go to [name of venue 1], because of the chef, he is really good, so we go for meal, but if we don’t want to have a meal, we go to [name of venue 2]. – Female.
Another participant described attending a particular venue because of the different activities it provided for her family, including the children, when they were there. The range of activities and the perception that it was family friendly made it a more attractive environment than other community locations. This participant described how her family would take turns at either gambling or watching the children:
So if we go watch [her cousins] play football, we can watch them play football and then have lunch. And the kids can play. One line of people watch the kids and then we do a swap around …. So, some will go play the pokies, some will keep an eye on the kids and then we’ll swap. – Female.
Some participants described that disability access was a positive feature of the venue that influenced their choice to attend. One participant said there would not be anything they would change about the venue and that the venue and staff had been “quite responsive” when requests about disability access were raised. While participants who spoke about disability access were predominately positive, they did recognise that access can often be problematic, particularly for those using wheelchairs and accessing bathrooms, and offered potential areas of improvement. For example, a participant said, “sometimes I don’t agree with how big the disabled toilets are”. Another participant who attended the venue frequently described how she wanted to be able to use the courtesy bus but it did not have wheelchair access. A few participants also talked about wheelchair access to the front door of the venue, with one participant describing how the venue could ensure it was more inclusive:
Some are friendly [for people with disability] but some are, they need to look at the building and say what can we fix, like the front doors? You can’t get a wheelchair in there. Because you have to open the door and then hold it with your leg and then push the wheelchair in. So they need to look at things like that. – Female.
Awareness and use of activities within pubs and clubs
Participants described socialising within pubs and clubs as one of the main outcomes of going to the venue:
We go there because it’s a nice place, we also catch up with people, friends there, we have a drink there, we socialise. – Female.
A few participants indicated that they enjoyed talking to people who they did not know while in the venue. Some participants described socialising within the gambling spaces in the venue. For example, one participant described socialising with other people while in the “pokie room”, when celebrating winning money. Others stated that while they rarely talked to other people, they enjoyed going somewhere where they felt they were in a social environment, could attend by themselves, and felt safe and included.
Participants also described the dining and entertainment options in the venue, with most stating that while they were there they had either a lunch or dinner. For many participants the price of meals available at venues was a key influencer in their decision to attend rather than dining elsewhere. Being a member of these venues led to even cheaper meals:
It is cheaper at the RSL because if you go to any other restaurant for what we have because I am gluten free. You are paying a lot more. You can pay up to $40 for a meal where I will be paying because we are members of the RSL and we get members price. – Female.
Several participants acknowledged that there was a bar in the venues they attended; but only a few stated that they consumed alcohol. For example, one participant would go to the pub for a “couple of drinks”, with one of the incentives being that the beer was cheap to buy at this pub, while another participant said he went to pubs or clubs to “get drunk”. This particular participant described a situation where he had won while gambling on EGMs, and used that money to buy alcohol:
I took the money out, bought a beer, bought a lady a beer, we exchanged a few cigarettes and had a bit of a chat. – Male.
Participants also recalled, after being prompted with the picture board, that they watched sport, or the live music or entertainment that was offered. For example, one participant recalled “Oh and I can’t forget I love the live music as well, and the footy”. Others took part in a range of health promoting activities - “exercises there every week and then we have lunch afterwards”. Some participants described engaging in a range of specific activities, such as music groups. These participants would go to different venues to participate in these groups. For example, the following participant described going to Morning Melodies (a senior citizens event typically consisting of live entertainment and morning tea or lunch):
I actually have my Morning Melodies every Tuesday...[Interviewer: So where do you go to morning melodies at?] Oh at different pubs, I mean not the same place but different places. But then last Tuesday it wasn’t on, there was one on but it was it was too far to travel, that was at the [name] RSL. I didn’t go, I wanted to but then it was a bit further out for me to travel that far. – Male.
Many participants were members of venues, which involved signing up for a membership card where points could be accumulated with any purchases, including gambling, that were made within the venue. The biggest attraction of being a member of a venue was the discounts associated with membership cards, including “member’s prices”, and reduced meal prices. The ability to provide discounts for friends and family members was a particularly appealing part of holding a membership card, and enabled participants to invite friends to venues:
You get discounts on your meals. You can get discounts on your drinks. We have taken our friends, and they get their meals discounted because of us. – Female.
A few participants knew that points could be earned by spending money on gambling products, and in particular EGMs. One participant was critical of the accumulation and use of membership points for gambling:
You can choose either points for the pokies or say meals and I chose the meals … [Interviewer: What do you think about using your points for the pokies?] I don’t really encourage it, because that’s when people can get into trouble. Yeah, you know that’s why I like to have that choice, to have that choice to have the points off the meals, you know. – Female.
One participant showed the interviewer four membership cards for different venues, one of which was a silver membership card. This indicated a higher level of membership within a rewards program, usually associated with spending a certain amount of money within the venue. When asked how he was able to receive the silver membership card he said, “Oh I don’t know you just apply for it, you know the upgrades”. He also described the benefits of being a member because the venues “send you out something for your birthday, like if you spend $20 you then get food and a beverage”.
Participants often described the interactions they had with staff members. A few participants thought the customer service was good, that the staff were “lovely”, and were “really interactive”. One participant recalled the extent of the service that staff members provided:
They really looked after me. At the hotel if my taxi arrived and I hadn’t quite finished [using EGMs] they would come and tell me. – Female.
Some stated that the staff in the venue knew them by name because they regularly attended the venue. For example, one participant said, “yeah they know us, because they see us every day”, while another said “the staff are nice, they all know us”. Lastly, another participant, who had very positive attitudes towards the club, indicated that these attitudes were due to how friendly the staff were:
I mean it is friendly and the staff …, when we walk into the RSL the people at the front desk the people know us by name. It is not just a ‘hi’, it’s “Hi [participant name] and [husband’s name] how are you?”, and when we go and they say goodbye and they are very friendly. They are very helpful. Like if we ring up to order a table, I don’t even have to say my last name anymore. – Female.
Finally, participants described a range of gambling products available in the venue. While participants had conservative views about the consumption of alcohol in venues, some regularly participated in gambling. Participants talked about seeing EGMs within pubs and clubs or were aware of the designated gaming room that contains EGMs. For example, one participant described the layout of a club they had been to:
Yeah on the one side there’s the dining room and one side there’s the pokies room. – Female.
Keno was another product in the venues recalled by some participants. Although participants were not entirely sure of how Keno worked, they did identify that Keno “is on the TV at the RSL’s and they’ve got them in the pokies area as well”. Another participant described Keno by explaining, “basically you pick numbers and then pretend balls come up.” Some participants also recalled bingo, although many said bingo was too complicated for them to participate. For example one participants stated “no I haven’t done bingo because it goes too fast”. One participant recalled that she had previously gone somewhere to play bingo that had electronic bingo machines, rather than marking off numbers with a pen, which enabled her participation:
It’s for someone with a disability, you don’t have to mark it at all they [the machine] does it automatically, it does it if your number comes up. – Female.
A few participants talked about participating in raffles when they were in the venue. One participant believed that buying raffle tickets was a way of “supporting the RSL”. Some participants described the prizes that were associated with raffles, with meat raffles the most popular. Participants liked raffles because they were relatively inexpensive, there was a chance to win a range of prizes, and it was a way of supporting the club or different community causes:
With the raffles you can win beer, wine, meat and sometimes because the ladies ancillary do the raffle at the RSL and you put, no pay $5 and you could win a voucher from the ladies ancillary. – Female.