7 November 2022

Will new warnings stop problem gambling? Odds are against it

| Ross Solly
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Phone betting

There are now so many options for live betting and online gambling. Photo: File.

One Saturday morning, fresh out of high school and in my first full-paying job as a cadet journalist, I was wandering the street with a friend looking for soft-drink bottles we could trade in for money.

Our goal was to raise enough dough to place a couple of bets on the horses that afternoon. Neither of us had two coins we could rub together, but we knew if we did have, we’d gamble them on a couple of sure things that would make us wealthy.

These were during the days when there was no online betting. To have a wager you would have to go into a TAB, fill out a betting slip and then poke it through a machine. I often wonder, if I’d had access to online gambling back in the ’80s, where would I be now?

Fortunately when I went through my gambling phase, I had no assets and no wife or kids. When I ran out of money I just had to go through a few days of living off whatever I had left in the fridge, and hoping I had enough petrol in the car to get me through to the next pay day.

I was not an addict, but I had friends who certainly were. Friends who borrowed money or sold their possessions to gamble. Thankfully all of them eventually walked away from the habit, jolted into reality by changing personal responsibilities.

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These days we know how serious the problem of gambling is. This week it was announced the “gamble responsibly” message that accompanies betting advertisements is not strong enough, so tougher warnings will have to be given.

From next April, warnings like “Chances are you’re about to lose” and “You win some. You lose more” will accompany all gambling advertisements. The announcement came on Melbourne Cup Day, the event where many Australians place their one and only bet of the year.

Some, especially those fortunate to back the winner, might develop a taste. How easy is this, they might ask themselves …

Will the new warnings stop problem gambling? Probably not. But if it makes a casual gambler pause for a moment, then that surely would be considered a win.

It’s no longer just about the horses. In fact, a lot of the problem seems to be that you can basically bet on anything, and not just sport. How often do we hear odds quoted for elections, or even for the chances of interest rates rising? And if you want to place a bet, there is no shortage of betting companies willing to take your money.

READ ALSO A politician, a convicted felon and a journalist walk into a bar …

Is the answer to ban advertising on gambling altogether? I mean, if people want to bet , they will have already downloaded the app, set up an account, and (probably) studied the odds. Is it right that betting companies can try to tempt new clients by offering ridiculous odds promising their money back if their team is ahead at half time?

I can hear the claims now, that banning gambling ads shows we are a nanny state, and whatever happened to people taking responsibility for their own decisions?

I can tell you from experience, gambling is an addiction. And once you get that taste, it’s very hard to walk away. But I also know a lot of people who just enjoy an occasional flutter, and never gamble outside their means. They certainly are not addicts.

Of course a ban won’t happen, because the gambling industry injects a lot of money into advertising, and there are a lot of vested interests who would not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Let’s just be grateful you can’t get money back for soft-drink bottles anymore.

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I like to have a wager every now and then but agree that there is a lot of gambling advertising – on TV especially.

I have a teenage boy who doesn’t watch television as he is either playing sport or online with friends. My concern with him is the incessant ads (mostly gambling) he is exposed to.

If the government are fair dinkum then ban gambling advertising across all platforms.

You get 10 cents a bottle at ACT recycling points so there’s still that chance. Gambling, eating, drinking, working can all be addictive if you have an addictive personality. All of them can do irreparable harm to the addict. At the same time there are many more out there that take part in all of these activities and lead a balanced and reasonable life. Both of the author’s anecdotes support the ability to resist addiction. Gambling losses are part of life and are a means of creating resilience. Every explorer we praise was the ultimate gambler. Australian Barry Marshall won a Nobel Prize betting that he would survive drinking a glass full of bacteria to prove his work with ulcers. When your forefathers emigrated to Australia they were taking a gamble. When your mum and dad let you walk to school or ride your bike after school in the local neighbourhood, they were taking a gamble. When you start a business it’s a huge gamble. When you buy shares or select a fixed rather than variable rate of interest on the home you may buy now or wait for prices to drop is a gamble. As are taking out Life and Health insurance where you are betting that you will die or get sick before the insurance companies bet you do. Anyone seeking publicity these days just has to decry gambling to get a headline. It appears we are losing the venture spirit, the essence of human survival, at the expense of perceived ‘safety’.

“Let’s just be grateful you can’t get money back for soft-drink bottles anymore.”

Ummmmm…. Sorry, yes you can. Ten cents for each bottle or can – a great little earner for kids.

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