Tyrone Mitchell, photo: Darren Seiler
I’ve got a lot of friends who love sports betting. It’s turned into quite a regular thing, especially at the pub on Thursdays after footy training and Saturdays after a game. They pretty much bet on anything – sports, horses, dogs, UFC fighting.
Socially, it’s boring as bat shit. They want to sit on the pokies or they want to place bets or they’ve got to be near a TV screen so they can watch their horses.
I think it’s a really bad habit. They don’t have problems now, but in two or three years they could. If I say something, they sort of laugh it off, same as every gambler: ‘It’s not a problem, I can stop if I want to, I just don’t want to’.
A couple of times I’ve said jokingly, ‘Come and see me and I’ll give you some tips’. But quietly, away from the group, I’ll say, ‘If you seriously want to have a hard think about it, then maybe we could have a chat’. They’re just like, ‘Nah, it’s not a problem’.
They don’t have problems now, but in two or three years they could.
They do it online, too. Before we were 18 and weren’t allowed in the TABs, online sports betting was especially big. Getting an account was pretty easy for them.
The number of sports betting ads on games, Facebook, Twitter and other social media is unbelievable. On Instagram, which is just photos, no messaging, you’re scrolling down your feed, looking at all these photos, and then suddenly a sports betting ad pops up. And you’re like, ‘Where did that come from?’. You click on the photo profile and it’s pure advertising.
I saw how gambling hurt my family
When we were younger, just turning 18, and working out what we liked, I felt pressure at the pub. People were saying, ‘Come on, twenty bucks won’t hurt’. I’d put ten or twenty bucks in and feel guilty about throwing money away. It’s not much, but if you’re gambling you might as well be putting it in the bin. I’ve never thought, ‘Right, I’m going to sit here and play these pokies for an hour.’ I’ve always seen through it.
I grew up with family members playing the pokies, spending hours and hours on end without leaving the one seat, until 11 or 12 o’clock at night when the place closed. Seeing how gambling hurt these relatives, and the effect it had on their kids, has definitely influenced me.
The benefits of spending less on the machines
We were at the pub the other night and one of the boys was playing pokies. I was just sitting next to him on the phone when I noticed these little numbers tucked away at the side of the machine. ‘Money in’ was over $500,000 and ‘money out’ was around $30,000. So this was how much money had been put into that particular machine and how much money had come out. As you can imagine, it wasn’t in big, bright letters.
I think we need to raise awareness in the community about the amount of money that can be lost. Twenty dollars a night, that’s forty bucks over a weekend, and it eventually accumulates.
If you’re gambling you might as well be putting it in the bin.
Up here in Mildura, building rapport with the Aboriginal community is vital. If you don’t have good relationships with the community, people won’t listen to you. It’s important to talk about the benefits of spending less money on the machines, how it could make the community a better place. The key is turning it back around onto people’s interests.
I have a mate who’s really into cars, but he never has enough money because of gambling. He’s got an old Valiant, but he never has enough to fix it up. I said to him, ‘If you stop spending this much money on the pokies, and this much money on sports betting, you’ll save it all and by the end of the month, you’ll have enough to get a decent paint job’. That made him think.
Tyrone Mitchell is a trainee Gambler’s Help financial counsellor with Mallee District Aboriginal Services in Mildura. He plans to go to university in March 2017 to commence a Bachelor of Arts degree. Tyrone plays football on a regular basis and is also involved with AFL Indigenous programs.