A recent study by researchers at the Australian National University has found that mobile construction workers have a higher risk of developing gambling addictions. Researcher Bruce Doran and his team have discovered that FIFO (fly-in fly-out) workers are 15 times more likely to have a gambling problems. Across Queensland (where the study took place), between 0.8% and 2% of the population have gambling addictions.

The rate among mobile construction workers is much higher, as upwards of 11% of individuals in this profession have been identified as problem gamblers. The working conditions experienced by mobile construction workers are likely to blame. According to the study, they experience social and physical isolation, which is likely to drive these professionals to gambling.

Many states offer gambling to FIFO workers, as a form of entertainment to satisfy mobile construction professionals while they are away from home. "We've got an enormous fly-in fly-out population who are looking for entertainment services and gaming machines can provide part of the entertainment that some of these fly-in fly-out workers are looking for," says Peter Styles Gaming Minister for Northern Territory.

However, Doran notes that this is a counter-productive approach. By increasing pokie numbers to offer more entertainment to FIFO workers, states may actually be doing more harm. Due to the social and physical isolation experienced by mobile construction workers, they are more vulnerable to developing gambling addictions.

“They're a long way from friends and family and support networks and they have a high level of disposable income," Doran says. "These are all risk factors in terms of the potential to gamble in a risky way and we certainly found they did." One thing that can protect against this is personal relationships.

According to Doran’s research, being in a relationship is a mediating factor that can mean ‘the difference between a non-problem and problem gambler’.