Shane Lucas, photo: Paul Jeffers
In this bumper edition of Inside gambling, we’re privileged to gain insight into the perspectives of various people whose lives have been touched by gambling-related issues. While seemingly disparate at first glance, it is easy to identify the common threads weaving their way in and out of these stories, connecting them through very human emotions. A desire to protect the innocence of childhood. Compassion for those who are vulnerable. Curiosity, despair, resilience, hope, empowerment and celebration. Gambling harm is complex. Here we have an opportunity to consider different aspects of this challenging public health issue, and how it affects different people in our community, one story at a time.
Gambling’s not a game, former Victory captain tells kids
Since I joined the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, so many people have expressed concern to me about the prevalence of sports betting advertising.
The banning in 2018 of static betting advertising in public places, including on outdoor billboards, public transport and within 150 metres of all Victorian schools, has removed these ads from plain sight, but that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared.
Sports betting ads continue to proliferate on websites, online games and apps. They’re on TV. They’re at sporting events. And they’re being ‘consumed’ by kids, who come to think it’s normal to bet on sport.
In this edition of Inside gambling, former Melbourne Victory captain Carl Valeri tells us what he loves most about playing soccer and the reason he’s having a conversation with his young daughters about the risks associated with gambling.
Tempting in-game purchases resemble gambling
The exposure of children to simulated gambling in online video games, and a concern that this could lead to gambling, was the motivation for Diversitat (Geelong Ethnic Communities Council) to make a series of videos for parents that lift the lid on gaming. Available in seven languages, the videos explore the monetisation of gaming through loot boxes and skins. Several young people were involved in the project through a schools-based media studies traineeship, including 16-year-old Daniel, an ardent gamer, who says few of his friends’ parents would understand the temptations on offer.
Credit providers have a responsibility to customers
The easy access to credit that enables people with a history of gambling problems to continue to gamble was exposed at the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry for exactly what it is – unconscionable.
The story of David Harris, a witness at the royal commission, is not unique. Financial counsellors are all too familiar with the challenging interactions of clients, concerning sometimes insurmountable debt, with the same creditors who actively pursued their business in the first place.
Inside gambling spoke to Gambler’s Help members of the Financial and Consumer Rights Council’s Gambling Issues Working Group, who say banks need to hear personal stories of gambling harm. They want to effect change by sharing their own experiences, and those of their clients, of dealing with banks.
Neither simple nor isolated
It is not uncommon for people experiencing severe gambling harm to be affected at the same time by other issues, such as depression or anxiety. Indeed, researchers have estimated that nearly 75 per cent of people seeking treatment for gambling issues have some form of psychological disorder. Because of the strong association between gambling harm and mental health, and the complexity this can create for identifying and treating each of often multiple co-occurring conditions, the Foundation has made a submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Read: Out of the forest: mental health and gambling
Loving life post-pokies
The Foundation is incredibly fortunate to be guided in our work by the wise counsel of a broad range of people who have personal experience of gambling harm.
Advice comes from people who have developed a gambling addiction or been affected by someone else’s. People whose activity of choice has been betting on dog or horse racing, playing casino games, online sports betting or something else entirely. Their experiences are all valuable and their generosity in sharing often very painful details with us cannot be underestimated.
Respite from grief, trauma and loneliness are central to Anna Bardsley’s story. Anna is a member of the Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee whose life was overtaken for 10 years by a pokies addiction. In The accidental advocate, Anna tells us about her road to recovery, battling feelings of disconnection, shame and disgust, participating in different types of therapy, finding a voice and, eventually, reclaiming her life.
The pokies were also a trap for Uncle Daryl Smith, a Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) youth outreach worker. Daryl was hypnotised by the lights, the music, the colours and an early win on the pokies that kept him coming back for more, certain that a bigger win was just around the corner. Daryl shares with us the challenges he overcame to achieve the ultimate ‘win’ – giving up the pokies altogether. His message for others is it’s never too late to give up.
Improving outcomes through culturally appropriate services
Victoria's Mr NAIDOC 2019, Christopher Saunders, has observed that gambling options are readily available to young Aboriginal people. National NAIDOC Sportsperson of the Year 2019, Shantelle Thompson, says that for some people the odds of winning at gambling seem better than the odds of winning at life. Christopher and Shantelle spoke to Inside gambling about the importance of holistic, culturally appropriate support services for individuals, families and communities affected by gambling harm. They say supporting self-determination makes all the difference.