Link between AFL pokies and rise in family violence, study shows

A link between AFL-controlled pokies clubs and rising rates of family violence has been revealed, thanks to new research from Monash University.

The findings detail gambler losses of $94 million across 1316 AFL-controlled pokies machines, the majority of which are located in lower socio-economic suburbs.

Using police crime data, Dr Charles Livingstone of Monash University has identified a correlation between the proportion of AFL machines in local government areas and a marked increase in family violence.

The report found that family violence rose by 22 per cent in areas of Victoria where AFL pokies were placed, a 5.7 per cent higher rate of increase than average.

The correlation is strongest in Melton, which has the highest concentration of AFL machines in Victoria, and where the increase in family violence incidents between 2013-2017 was a staggering 35 per cent.

“EGM [electronic gaming machine] concentrations are associated with higher levels of family incidents – that is, overwhelmingly, violence against women,” Dr Livingstone’s report notes.

This correlation is deemed “strongly at odds” with the AFL’s own ‘Respect and Responsibility Policy’, a key purpose of which is to ‘demonstrate a commitment to broader cultural change aimed at addressing violence against women’.

As Dr Livingstone concludes, it is “likely counter to the spirit, intention, and likely the actual letter of the policy.”

All but one Victorian AFL club (North Melbourne) currently operate pokies machines, with a number operating multiple venues. Carlton owns the most with 300 machines, reaping a revenue of over $17 million from gambler losses.

The paper reveals that more than half of the 1316 machines are located in Melbourne’s northwestern suburbs, identified by the report as “socio-economically disadvantaged”. Losses here amounted to $54 million last year, or 57% of the AFL club total.

Referring to Melton, Dr Livingstone’s report says “access to EGM venues is an important factor driving family violence, and without the venues operated by the three AFL clubs in that area, it is probable that the losses experienced by EGM users would be about half.”

Read the full paper here titled Should AFL clubs get out of the pokie business? Observations on the location of Victorian AFL Club EGM venues: disadvantage and the rate of family incidents.