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Weighing up the risks and benefits of community gambling venues as recreational spaces for people with lifelong disability

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Background: Community gambling venues (pubs and clubs) are commonly associated with leisure and recreational options in Australian communities. While these venues offer a range of activities and facilities, including social opportunities, sporting facilities, live entertainment, they also contain gambling products that are known to cause significant harm to individuals, their families and communities. Although researchers have explored how adults and children engage with these venues, there is limited understanding about the potential risks and benefits of these venues for people with lifelong disability. Methods: Semi structured interviews were conducted with nineteen people aged 20-70 years with lifelong disability (includes in this context intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and learning disability), predominately intellectual disability. The interviews occurred in a large Australian city and explored interviewees' experiences and attitudes towards pubs and clubs. Using a range of visual prompts (if needed), participants were asked to describe their engagement in different activities offered within the venue. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, with a thematic analysis used to identify themes across the group. Results: Most participants attended venues with family, friends, and supporters, with a few attending on their own. Participants described socialising in the venue, going for reduced price meals, and attended for a range of activities including recreational activities, live entertainment and sport. Some participants also valued being a member of venues, and the interactions with staff members. While participants were cautious about the consumption of alcohol, most had gambled, particularly on electronic gambling machines (EGMs, pokies, or slots). Some participants stated that they had experienced problems with gambling. Conclusions: While many people with lifelong disability have positive experiences in pubs and clubs, some are vulnerable to the harms associated with risky products such as gambling within the venue. While it is important to acknowledge the positives associated with recreational facilities and encourage engagement in leisure activities for people with lifelong disability, further consideration is needed to ensure people are informed and protected from the harms associated with gambling and other products that are provided within these spaces.



BMC public health



Article number



1 - 9


BioMed Central


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal