A study in 2011 in Australian found that 9.5% of employees gambled while at work using their mobile phones to place a bet. Given that most workers have a mobile phone with them at work, access to gambling sites is effortless.
There are three ways gambling can have an impact on the workplace.

  1. Reducing productivity – Employees who gamble during working hours, using their smartphone to place bets or play online poker, for example, are not focusing on work and are not effectively using work time.
  2. Increasing absence – Employees who gamble outside of work hours, for instance, on the pokies, may be absent from work more often, take extended lunch breaks to gamble or even miss work.
  3. Theft and fraud – Employees who have access to company finances may abuse their position to fund their gambling addiction. They may also request an advance on pay checks, borrow from colleagues, and misuse company resources. Also, workplaces may be similarly affected where an employee has a family member with a problem.

Between 2008 and 2010, employers were found to be the largest victims of gambling-related crime, with $77 million lost.

What Can Employers Do?
Covid-19 is creating ongoing uncertainties, financial stress, anxiety and a significant increase in gambling activities. Now is the time to examine your workplace policies and to have in place risk mitigation strategies to protect your employees and your company.

Your policy should regulate gambling at work or during working hours, by prohibiting gambling using company resources, e.g. telephones, computers and tablets, installing of gambling applications on company resources, and engaging in gambling through social media platforms.

All organisations have a duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment. In the case of gambling, employers should:

  • Provide information and appropriate education to employees about how to gamble responsibly
  • Train employees on the signs to look out for if someone has a problem and details of employee assistance programs
  • Ensure that employees are aware of the available support services if they or someone they care about is experiencing problems, such as EAP Assist.

Training on Gambling Addiction
Problem gambling can be a difficult issue to raise with your employees, but there are some positive actions you can take.

  1. Normalise the discussion by acknowledging that sometimes having an awkward conversation is necessary for the workplace.
  2. Express facts, thoughts, feelings and beliefs without placing blame.
  3. Focus on “I” rather than “you” statements.
  4. Listen actively to what your employees have to say by paraphrasing and summarising.
  5. Be understanding acknowledging the emotions that are present.
  6. Plan your responses based on how you think your employees are likely to react.

EAP Assist facilitates Digital Platforms to address problematic gambling & related issues: https://eapassist.com.au/digital/
To Conclude
Gambling is on the rise, and Covid-19 has seen some significant increases in online use. It’s primarily a problem with males under the age of 30 with the latest statistics showing a 46% increase in the past month during the pandemic lockdown. Where it becomes a problem is when it spills over into your workplace.

Employees who engage in excessive gambling, are likely to affect workplace productivity, morale and your company’s reputation.  Also, addicted employees affect their work colleagues and those near to them, and all may suffer harm, including psychological and financial distress.

You need clear policies on gambling while at work and the use of online apps. You need to provide training on how to gamble responsibly, information about the signs of addiction to look out for, and where employees can seek help and support.