Administrators in the Australian state of Queensland have outlined a four-year plan to reduce gambling harm in the territory, as part of a wider commitment by the government of Annastacia Palaszczuk.

It is currently estimated that up to 70% of Queensland residents gamble, although the government has acknowledged that a minority of these are at risk of harm.

The Gambling Harm Minimisation Plan for Queensland 2021-25 will feature a focus on industry social responsibility as well as the establishment of collaborative, systemic and technology approaches to reduce gambling related harm.

Furthermore, the four-year plan has outlined shared roles and responsibilities for government, industry and community to reduce gambling-releated harm in the state.

“We all have a role to play in supporting Queenslanders to gamble safely,” said Shannon Fentiman, Queensland Attorney General and Minister for Justice. “There is no doubt that gambling is a complex social issue that not only impacts the gambler themself, but their family, workplace and the wider community.

“The harm can also have a ripple effect across all aspects of life – with relationships, mental health and finances falling victim. The most recent Queensland household gambling survey found that 70% of Queenslanders gamble.

“While only a small proportion of these people would be classified as problem gamblers, we need to ensure that all gamblers are protected from harm.”

The specific aim of the plan is to the prevention and minimisation of gambling harm to Queensland residents, their families and local communities, specifically young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons – the latter group in particular been identified as experiencing ‘disproportionate harm from gambling’ by the report.

In its official release, the regional government recognised that ‘significant work’ has been done to tackle gambling-rleated harm, but argued that ‘more can be done’ to address the issue in the state.

“Over recent years, we have seen many changes in the ways people gamble,” Fentiman continued. “With a growing number of interstate and international gambling operators providing online services; digital technology and advertising exposing Queenslanders to gambling at a very young age – we need to make sure Queenslanders have the support they need to seek help and recognise the signs of problem gambling.”

The plan has been released during Responsible Gambling Awareness Week (RGAW), which has showcased the theme ‘When gambling took over…’, in support of a government campaign to reduce the stigma around problem gambling, as well as drive behavioural change by encouraging gamblers to seek help and information.

Additionally, the plan has been informed by the Queensland government’s responsible gambling advisory committee, whose members come from across industry, community and government.

The RGAC has a history of working collaboratively to address gambling harm in the state, and will take the lead in the implementation of the plan. Stakeholders responsible for key actions, or those who may be impacted, will have an opportunity to contribute towards deliverables.

Victoria Thomson, the Queensland Commissioner for Liquor and Gaming, remarked: “We need to broaden our focus beyond ‘the problem gambler’ and focus our attention on preventing harm before it occurs by identifying those at risk and intervening early.

“There will be a shift from ‘responsible gambling’ to a ‘safer gambling’ framework that recognises there are safe levels of gambling activity and ways for industry to provide safer gambling environments.

Gamlbing related harm has become an increasingly prominent issue in Australian public affairs over the past year, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recruiting Engine – the developer of the UK’s GAMSTOP service – to develop a national self-exclusion network.

“We will only be able to achieve this through a collaborative and coordinated effort – creating safer gambling environments, that also include partnerships across sectors, venues and gambling help service providers,” Thomson added.

“Significant work has already been done to prevent and minimise gambling-related harm in Queensland, but I also know that by shifting focus, acknowledging new trends and technologies and working as a team we can go so much further to protect people.”