In the UK and Australia it is not uncommon for workers to sneak in a quick game of bingo while at work. Many employers have installed software to block gambling sites on company owned computers. Many employers believe gambling should be banned from the workplace because of occupational health and safety reasons according to one workplace relations specialist. Employers do not want employees gambling on company time. Bingo and other gambling games are also available on mobile devices and smartphones.
An increase in online gambling opportunities, including real money social gaming, have led to warnings by experts that businesses need to develop new IT and social media policies to prevent gambling in the workplace. In Australia the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, has been proactive and has been offering workers educational and training programs designed to reduce the risk of developing a gambling problem. The move is part of the commission’s occupational health and safety policies.
Gambling at work has never been easier for employees. On Melbourne Cup Day a gambling company ran a full page ad that explained that it only took about two minutes to set up a gambling account and how to gamble using a credit card. Some Australian companies like Telstra have set up social media policies explaining the appropriate use of social media by employees. Many companies have no specific policies that address gambling specifically. Many companies, including Telstra, block access to all gambling sites on company computers. Holding Redlich senior associate and workplace relations specialist Joel Zyngier said that gambling on company time using company equipment should be banned.
Redlich stated ”Due to the increased trend of gambling via social media, it is clear that unacceptable behaviour must include using an employer’s resources to engage in gambling via social media. As far as I am aware it [gambling] is not being looked at, at least to the same extent that pornography or race-hate sites are being looked at.’ An employer’s duty under OH&S law is to do everything it practically can to eliminate or minimize risks to health and safety in the workplace. Unfettered access to the internet coupled with knowledge that employees have the potential to cause themselves harm by gambling, may trigger an employer’s OH&S duty.”
Real money social gaming may allow employees to get around the block on gambling websites. In most offices employees are allowed to use Facebook for work related reasons. Zyngier advises companies against a total ban on social media saying it is unrealistic. Zyngier said a company could find itself in trouble if an employee developed a gambling addiction at work. Zyngier stated ”It wouldn’t be a common situation … but if they continued to allow the person access to something that harmed them then it could very well be an occupational health and safety breach.”
It remains to be seen just how widespread the problem is. Fortunately most employees use common sense and do not gamble using company equipment. Some online bingo players said they use their mobile phones to play a quick game of bingo while at lunch or on a break. Gambling on social media sites while at work could lead to a widespread crackdown by employers.
By Jeff Davis