Pleasures and risks associated with bingo playing in an Australian Aboriginal community: lessons for policy and intervention Academic Article uri icon


  • Bingo playing in Australian Indigenous communities has received little academic attention. We report here on an exploratory study designed to understand the complex benefits and harms associated with bingo playing for Aboriginal people in Sunraysia, a regional community in Victoria, Australia. The research was strongly participatory, and conducted in collaboration with staff of an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation. Twenty-six members of the Sunraysia Aboriginal community were interviewed, with interviews primarily conducted by workers from the Aboriginal organisation. Echoing research from other countries, but with a unique focus on the experience of bingo for Aboriginal people in Australia, this study demonstrates compelling reasons why Aboriginal people in Sunraysia play bingo, and how bingo playing both exposes players to risk and mitigates against a wide range of harms. We found that, for many people in the study, bingo was variously a site that reinforces social connectedness, a source of fun and excitement and a strategy to find solace or respite in the face of personal pain and structural injustice. In contrast with other forms of gambling, bingo presents risks that can generally be managed, largely because of the smaller financial spend involved. However, people also described harms including exhausting the family budget, family conflict and encouragement to commence other forms of gambling. We argue for enhanced regulation of commercial bingo and suggest that not-for-profit bingo be implemented as a harm reduction strategy to enable people to experience some of the pleasures associated with gambling, with reduced risk of financial and social harms.

publication date

  • 2019