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.
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.
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.