Since the introduction of electronic gaming machines into public hotels (pubs) and clubs across most of Australia from the mid-1990s onwards, research attention has largely focused on the impact of gambling venues in densely-populated urban areas along the eastern seaboard. In contrast, despite remote areas being well provisioned with gaming machines and pubs and clubs being important social foci for outback towns, the impact of this form of gambling in remote areas is very poorly understood. As a first step in investigating the spatial catchments of gambling venues in remote Australia we conducted a case study of Lasseter's Hotel and Casino in Alice Springs. To determine the spatial extent of the casino's catchment, we adopted a cognitive mapping approach with Aboriginal people, support service workers and regulatory authorities.
The collective findings from the cognitive mapping exercise clearly demonstrated that the trade area of the casino is vast, spanning three states and drawing upon many vulnerable remote communities in the central desert. The analysis also revealed that the casino catchment is spatially coincident with the service catchment for Alice Springs. We discuss the potential social impacts of a catchment of this nature, the associated regulatory implications, and the potential of the cognitive mapping methodology for investigating rural and remote accessibility more generally.