Posts Tagged ‘gambling addiction’

It’s Spring carnival again and the betting agencies are lining up and throwing offers at punters left, right and centre.  It all sounds great with free betting and getting paid the win for finishing second and bonus bets and best tote odds etc.  Even with all that, most punters will lose money on the horses this Spring, and in worst case scenarios for punters, they will be on the path to gambling addiction – which is the best case scenario for the betting agencies.  This article has some tales of woe, plus the facts about Australia’s gambling habits.

‘Three months, half a million bucks’: Paying the price for a punt

Nick Toscano

27th October 2018

In the front seat of his parked car, a middle-aged man sits dressed in his running clothes; collar unzipped, sunglasses above his forehead. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and the middle of a drought in this part of Australia, so the air outside is warm and sunlight beams in through the rear windscreen glass.

Shuffling in his seat, Peter* begins explaining why he has to have this conversation here in his car instead of at home. For a moment, he can’t help but laugh. But the situation is far from funny, and his laughter trails off.

In the space of three months, Peter says he’s lost half a million dollars by gambling online. Every night, with multiple betting accounts on his smartphone, he’d been laying down huge sums on horse races – races in Australia, or Hong Kong, or wherever there was a race on. When there were no horse races left, he would bet on the greyhounds. If there were chickens running around, he’d probably have bet on them too. Having lost all control, he swiftly lost everything. And still, to this day, no one in his family knows about it.

“It was an absolute frenzy – bet, bet, bet, late into the night, early into the morning,” he recalls. “Three months, half a million bucks … it’s all gone now.”

Spring in their step

Springtime has arrived in Australia, and the spring racing season is in full swing. For the nation’s betting industry, this is the busiest period on the calendar. At pub terminals, at race tracks, on computers, tablets and mobile apps, hundreds of thousands of people will place a wager, just like they do every year. Over eight major race days, Australia’s biggest gambling company, ASX-listed Tabcorp, expects punters to turn over more than $1 billion.

The overwhelming majority of bets will be placed by ordinary people, betting moderately, betting for a bit of fun. The average amount is less than $20. For others, however, their betting is not so innocuous. According to recent research, an estimated 200,000 Australians are considered “problem gamblers”, that is, people who continue to gamble despite the dire impact it may be having on their lives.

Although Australians lose far less money betting on sport ($1.06 billion a year) and racing ($3.3 billion) than they do on pokies or casino games ($17 billion combined), the smartphone era has propelled online wagering into the fastest-growing form of gambling nationally – rocketing more than 15 per cent a year – a statistic that has some policymakers worried. The 24/7 availability of online gambling and the idea that digital transactions can seem “less real” have given rise to very real concerns that the danger of developing problematic gambling habits may be greater online.

“The majority of gambling in Australia happens in relatively controlled social environments like clubs, pubs, casinos and race tracks,” said Scott Morrison in 2015, when he was social services minister. “Online or interactive gambling creates vulnerabilities because it doesn’t share such limited controls and protections.”

Leading into Melbourne Cup week, with online bookmakers in fierce competition for market share, it is with these worries in mind that the rope is about to get tighter around the global online gambling giants here and the services they provide.

After three years and a series of delays, state and federal politicians are finalising a suite of new standards for the industry, aimed at tackling problem gambling risks online and beefing up protections for consumers.

Sportsbet, BetEasy, Ladbrokes, Bet365, Betfair and Unibet dispute the notion that problem gambling risks are greater online, arguing their technology provides punters tools to limit spending in a way that physical betting terminals cannot.

But they have been widely accepting of a series of concessions and, through their industry group Responsible Wagering Australia, have proactively helped government develop many of the incoming online gambling reforms, chief among them being a “national self-exclusion scheme” for people trying to quit gambling.

The first of its kind in Australia, the scheme will allow gamblers to ban themselves across state lines and across all betting sites at once on smartphones, computers and tablets. Also among the soon-to-be-introduced measures are a voluntary, opt-out pre-commitment system for punters to set their own limits, and a nationwide ban on bookies offering “inducements” to encourage people to open accounts.

Other figures on the frontline of the issue – such as problem gamblers themselves and the financial counsellors who assist them – are supportive of the new rules but argue the package doesn’t go far enough, fearing it falls short of what is truly needed to protect the vulnerable. One of the biggest omissions, they say, is that there is lack of enforceable requirements like in the United Kingdom for companies to take steps such as making checks on big-spending customers, monitoring their deposits and making sure they are safe.

“There is no clear duty on the company to take concrete steps to ensure their services are provided responsibly,” says Lauren Levin, the policy director of Financial Counselling Australia. “We are about five years behind the UK.”

‘It was just manic’

Just before his gambling spiralled out of control, Peter was in his 50s, recently divorced and had received a large payout following an accident. “I probably want to dodge a few points here,” he says, so as to not reveal his identity. “But when I got my payout, I was bored and lonely and started punting.”

Drinking heavily and taking powerful pain medication, he opened accounts with multiple online bookmakers including two of the biggest, Ladbrokes and CrownBet. His bets ranged from $10 or $20 to many thousands. In several instances, he wagered as much as $20,000 per race. Most nights, his account records show, he was turning over massive amounts of money, like clockwork, every couple of minutes.

“It was just manic,” he says. “I actually don’t remember most of it.”

After Peter began posting serious losses, some of the bookmakers’ software identified his erratic gambling patterns and cut him off. Others, however, did not, instead making him a “VIP customer” – rewarding his big spending with free bets and offers of tickets to sporting events.

“They were relentless, they’d do anything to keep you going … to see the money keep flowing in,” he says. “The only VIP I was to them was a ‘very important profit centre’.”

Every morning, he rolled out of his bed and reached for his mobile in fear, unable to remember what happened the night before. One morning, he saw $75,000 sitting in one of his betting accounts, down from $150,000. Although Peter has now stopped gambling, and self-excluded from the sites he once used, there is a familiar feeling of dread that still greets him daily.

“I literally wake up with heart palpitations every morning,” he says.

The most important change he believes is necessary in the current political push to stem gambling harm is a providing a pre-commitment scheme that is truly binding, not just for online wagering, but for all kinds of gambling. “Very few people can afford to lose $50,000 to $100,000 a day,” he says.

The new house where Jack* lives is nothing like his old one. Small and drab, it’s sparsely furnished and situated on a busy main road, the blare of traffic audible from inside. He appears from his kitchen holding a cup of tea and a tray of biscuits and apologises for the lack of space. A large window looks out to his driveway, where there is a disused car sitting idle that he can’t afford to repair. It’s cold inside. Jack is wearing a woolen jumper and loose blue jeans. His hair is white and cropped, his eyebrows thick and dark. He is aged is in his early 50s, but looks older. A lot has changed in the past 12 months.

“I’m not the same person I was, that’s for sure,” says Jack. “If I had lived here in this house three years ago, I’d have been terribly embarrassed.”

Jack was never a stranger to the punt. He would regularly stop at the TAB on the drive home from work, to put down $20 on whatever horse race was on.

When he lost his job of 21 years, and found himself with a large redundancy payout and hours to spare, things took a turn. His depression and anxiety worsened. Online gambling filled a void.

“When I sit here now with you, to me it just sounds totally insane,” he says. “I can’t even begin to think what sort of frame of mind I was in when I was sitting there with antidepressants, sleeping tablets, you know, a couple of cans of beer and $170,000 sitting in an account that I could just keep pumping into an online bookmaker in blocks of $10,000 and $20,000 at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, on races on the other side of the planet somewhere.”

Bottom of a pit

Over seven days, betting records show, Jack lost $125,000. Much like Peter’s experience, each day began in the grip of anxiety. “What the hell did I do last night?” he would ask himself. “That was the start of your day … waking up feeling like you’re at the bottom of a pit.”

Jack hates thinking about what he’s done, and all the money he’s lost – the money he should have been using to re-establish himself post-redundancy.

Although he unsuccessfully took his case to the regulator in the Northern Territory, the jurisdiction where most online bookmakers hold their licences, Jack blames himself mostly. It was, after all, his decision to gamble. “I got online and gambled it away,” he says, “but I think these bigger companies, too, have got some blame. They, and the government, should have some sort of safeguards to stop people like me from gambling erratically.”

Two months ago, when Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister, he overhauled the front bench. His appointment to the social services ministry – the role overseeing the new online wagering protections, the National Consumer Protection Framework – was Paul Fletcher, a former senior executive at Optus. Fletcher is the third minister to hold the portfolio in the past 12 months, prompting concerns that the momentum behind the online gambling legislation may be waning. But, speaking publicly on the topic for the first time as minister, Fletcher has moved to assure stakeholders that the package is in the “final stages” of agreements by all governments, and anticipates it it will be “announced shortly”.

‘Self-exclusion’ push

“The framework’s 10 measures will deliver strong, nationally consistent minimum protections for Australian using interactive wagering services,” he says. “All governments have worked extensively with industry, community sector organisations, academia and individuals who have experienced gambling harm to design the framework’s measures to ensure that the online gambling standards are raised nationally.”

Gambling-reform campaigners are urging the government to prioritise the framework before the federal election, particularly the national self-exclusion scheme, which they say is a “no-brainer”.

But some are already making the case for tougher reforms such as a national regulator as opposed to Australia’s patchwork state-based regulators, stricter rules around “bonus bet” offers, and greater onus on bookies to identify and act on potentially harmful betting behaviour. In the UK, they say, companies are legally required to gain a holistic picture of the source of wagering funds and critically assess a customer’s financial capacity, or face fines running into millions of pounds.

“The Brits are leaving us for dead on consumer protection for gamblers, with a decent national regulator, a raft of recent reform and more than $30 million worth of fines over the past two years,” says Susan Rennie, of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

Financial Counselling Australia agrees, saying the global bookmakers are forced to comply with far tougher rules in the UK than in their Australian businesses.

“Gambling companies already have software to identify changes in gambling patterns,” says Levin. “The problem is that the problem gambler is also their cash cow, so there is a reluctance to do what they should do – intervene.”

The major online bookmakers reject this claim, stressing that they “don’t want to take a cent” from problem gamblers. Aside from social responsibility obligations, industry insiders insist it is not in their commercial interests for someone to lose heavily in a short period then never bet with them again. They would rather customers bet moderately, within their means and on an ongoing basis. As one insider puts it: “Smaller bets lead to more stable outcomes and more predictable margins.”

At the height of a public and political backlash in 2016, online wagering companies formed the lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia to lift standards in the industry and restore its social licence.

The group’s director, former Labor senator Stephen Conroy, says its members have been among the leading advocates for the new consumer-protection reforms.

“Ultimately, millions of Australians enjoy having a punt and do so responsibly,” says Conroy. “What is important is to ensure there are effective tools available to assist people to continue wagering in a responsible way as well as effective permanent self-exclusion for those that have serious gambling problems.”

Tabcorp, which runs retail and online wagering services, has also supported the incoming framework, and says it has “long argued for a consistent approach” to gambling regulation. “We believe these changes will bring about a more balanced and responsible way in which betting is promoted and offered,” a spokesman said.

A few years ago, Gary* sustained an injury. A bad one. He was put under the knife in eight separate surgeries. It was quickly decided he wouldn’t return to his job full-time, but would eventually return part-time. “I haven’t worked a day since,” he says. “I haven’t been able to go back.”

As a younger man, Gary worked at a racecourse, and even had his wedding there. He had long been surrounded by horse racing and gambling. “But it had certainly never taken the toll or taken me to the places that I went to two years ago,” he says.

“When I was home after those surgeries and it became available on my phone, it was almost like Christmas had come … there were so many options, so many betting agencies.”

With two of his betting accounts, he decided to set limits on how much he could deposit, to make sure he “didn’t go overboard”. But with the third– Tabcorp’s now-defunct Luxbet – he had no limit in place. Instead, he requested a $1000 overdraft facility.

“There were some periods there where I was on some very serious medication, and I’d go 24 hours straight, I wouldn’t stop, the money would just keep going in – deposit, deposit deposit,” he recalls. Over several months, he lost about $130,000 “There was never any action, any intervention, to stop me.

“I’m not blaming anybody, I know that was my responsibility,” he says, “but it’s the way they allowed me to do it without any oversight in anyway.”

The Morrison government says the reforms will be “progressively” rolled out within 18 months. It will be too late for this Melbourne Cup, but some hope the national self-exclusion register, could be in force in time for next year’s.

“In spring racing season 2019, Australians will be expecting to see the sails of the Sydney Opera House emblazoned with graphics promoting the new online gambling self-exclusion register,” says Levin. “Now who do we call for publicity and endorsement? The PM, Alan Jones, or both?

* Names have been changed

https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/three-months-half-a-million-bucks-paying-the-price-for-a-punt-20181026-p50c5u.html

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So when the president of the Hawthorn football club and Beyond Blue talks about the dangers of sportsbetting, we should take it seriously.  Nevermind his club collects the most money from poker machines of any AFL team, where poker machines have caused gambling addiction and wrecked lives ever since they were introduced into Victoria… by Kennett.

 

‘Biggest scourge’: Kennett takes aim at AFL’s betting stance

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has lashed the AFL over its stance on sports betting, which he described as the “biggest scourge in our community”.

The former Victorian premier believes issues associated with gambling have overtaken mental health as the biggest challenge in the game, while his Greater Western Sydney counterpart Tony Shepherd has called for more regulation.

Kennett, whose club collects more money from poker machines than any other in the league, is concerned about the volume of betting advertising during broadcasts of games.

The AFL has an estimated $10 million deal with corporate sports bookmaker Crownbet, which runs live odds on the league’s website during games, while broadcasters Channel Seven and Fox Footy have their own betting partners.

Kennett described betting on sport and horseracing as a “very serious gambling threat”.

“I hold the AFL not responsible, partly responsible, I think sports betting is the biggest scourge in our community at the moment,” Kennett said at a business lunch in Melbourne run by club sponsor Bingo.

“It’s not restricted in terms of its promotion and advertising in the same way casinos or gaming machines are.

“So you’re now not only getting players but you’re getting children who are being indoctrinated from an early age to believe their future or future success and future wealth will come from gaming. The AFL is a major beneficiary from the money paid from sports betting.”

The federal government’s ban on gambling advertising during all live sports broadcasts between 5am and 8.30pm came into effect in March. The move is designed to reduce children’s exposure.

Kennett believes the widespread access to bookmakers on mobile phones is contributing to the problem.

“They train for a couple of hours, have an hour down, not long enough to leave the environment where they’re at, so they get on the new devices and that has caused a lot of trouble to a lot of players,” Kennett said.

“So they finish their career without anything at all in terms of cash. We’re very aware of that at Hawthorn … but it’s very hard to educate and encourage young men who are earning a lot of money what they can do in the privacy of their own time.”

Former players Brendan Fevola, Brent Guerra and Daniel Ward are among those who have spoken publicly about their gambling addictions.

Shepherd described betting as a “disease” in the sporting codes.

“This gambling issue could impact the integrity of the game in future. I see it as a significant issue that has to be dealt with,” Shepherd, a former president of the Business Council of Australia, said.

“I’m an anti-regulation person but I think regulation is probably the only answer.”

The AFL defended its betting partnerships, saying they helped the league in their integrity measures by giving them access to betting records of participants.

“The reason we have our agreements with various wagering partners is so the AFL can monitor all betting transactions in Australia, including whether players or officials are betting for integrity purposes,” an AFL spokesman said.

By Andrew Wu

2 August 2018 — 8:56pm

 

https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/biggest-scourge-kennett-takes-aim-at-afl-s-betting-stance-20180802-p4zv5s.html

If you watch any free to air TV you are likely to have seen a Sportsbet Ad – “Hey fellas!”  These are on regularly over the weekend and during footy games that are broadcast by Ch 7.  If you listen to SEN1116, every morning they cross to someone from Sportsbet, or whoever is paying them for time to get an update on the odds for the next round.  This has become so normalised that betting and the AFL have become synonymous with each other.  The AFL lists Crownbet as one of their Official partners (while ironically also having Carlton Draft and Drinkwise as partners), so when you look at the upcoming games on their website, Crownbet have the odds ready for you, and if you click on one of the odds by mistake, you get taken straight to a betslip on the Crownbet page.  I wonder how many kids have done that, wishing they had $10 to bet on their favourite team….

 

Sport and betting don’t have to go together, but kids don’t know that

By Louise Glanville

22nd July 2018

By the time they are teens, and certainly before they reach adulthood, kids in Victoria are being influenced by an industry with deep pockets.

Awkward conversations with tweens about everything from smoking and alcohol to sex and drugs have become a fact of life. Uncomfortable? Maybe. Necessary? Without a doubt.

And so it is these days with yet another, perhaps less obvious, public health issue; gambling.

Remember when you could watch sport without seeing a gambling ad? The thing is, kids don’t.

Bombarded by an excess of ads, invitations, promotions and inducements delivered via smartphone, TV, computer, billboards and at matches, a large majority — 75 per cent — of kids aged 8–16 years believe that betting on sport is normal.

By 18, many have started betting themselves, unaware or ill-equipped to manage the associated risks and potential harms, which range in manifestation and severity but typically involve one or a combination of financial hardship, emotional distress, family conflict and difficulty with work or study.

Sport-related gambling turnover soaring

The turnover from sport-related gambling in Victoria has increased significantly over the past decade and is putting young men, especially, at greater risk of gambling harm.

This is borne out by newly released research led by Dr Rebecca Jenkinson of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Weighing up the odds: Young men, sports and betting, which looked at the motivations, attitudes and behaviours of 18–35-year-old men exposed to gambling advertising.

An alarming, but not surprisingly high proportion (70 per cent) of the 335 bettors in the quantitative study of more than 400 young men were found to be at risk of, or already experiencing, gambling harm. Of these, 15 per cent were considered to be over the threshold for “problem gambling” as measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index, a tool for estimating a person’s risk of gambling problems and, consequently, harm.

Eighty-one per cent reported having used at least one form of betting promotion in the previous 12 months, such as sign-up bonuses (58 per cent) and multi-bets (49 per cent). And two-thirds (64 per cent) said they had bet on sports while affected by alcohol, half of whom spent more money or placed more bets than they would have had they not been drinking.

Bettors who gambled weekly were significantly more likely to spend more on bets across more sports, use multiple online betting accounts, be motivated by boredom and chase losses — all warning signs of harm.

So what does this tell us?

Kids targeted by gambling industry with deep pockets

By the time they are teens, and certainly before they reach adulthood, kids are being influenced by an industry with deep pockets that, according to the Standard Media Index, spent $234.5 million on gambling advertising in Australia in 2016, up from $89.7 million in 2011, excluding sponsorships and in-program content. It’s no wonder young adults are engaging in risky gambling and experiencing harm.

While both state and Commonwealth governments have recently taken action to address where and when the gambling industry can promote its products, the community too has a responsibility to ensure that young people have the knowledge and tools they need to think critically, and make informed choices, about gambling.

As part of her research, Dr Jenkinson also conducted interviews with a small sample of CEOs and regional general managers of Victorian sporting clubs and leagues, parents and bettors.

The majority felt there was a need for greater regulation of sports betting advertising, and most noted that sports betting was too easily accessible, especially for those who might be experiencing harm.

Clubs must help members make informed gambling choices

Interestingly, all of the sports administrators interviewed believed that sporting leagues and clubs should play a role in supporting members to make informed choices about gambling.

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation is partnering, through our Love the Game program, with elite soccer, rugby union, cricket and all 10 Victorian AFL clubs, as well as 300 community sporting clubs, to counter the normalisation of gambling in sport.

The decision by these clubs to reduce the exposure of fans and players to sports betting advertising, and thereby challenge the assumption that sport and betting go hand-in-hand, demonstrates the importance they place on this issue. I applaud their commitment.

This weekend’s dedicated AFL Victoria Love the Game Round provides an opportunity for all Victorians — fans and players alike — to share and celebrate as a community all the things we enjoy about footy, which have nothing to do with gambling.

And it offers an ideal opening for parents, teachers, coaches and other influential adults to talk to the kids in their care about gambling risks and harms so that they can develop a balanced, realistic understanding of how gambling works.

You and I know that sport and betting don’t have to go together. It’s time to let kids know that, too.

Love the game, not the odds.

Louise Glanville is CEO of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-22/sports-gambling-afl-sporting-clubs-favour-kids-over-betting/10011962?section=sport

Although this article is about poker machines, the same psychology applies to all forms of gambling.  And you only to have watch films like Owning Mahowny (2003) to see the joylessness of gambling addiction, where winning becomes irrelevant, and money becomes meaningless.  The only impulse left in the brain is just to keep gambling, to stay in the zone forever.

 

Gambling addiction: Enter the ‘zone’ where winning is a distraction

By Diane Dean

Our brains are naturally configured to get pleasure out of some of the things we do. That’s why we survive.

Pleasure drives us to hit some crucial day-to-day goals, such as finding and eating food.

But the system as a whole is more complicated than that; it’s not all about tangible rewards.

We can spend an awful lot of time pursuing a pleasurable experience that is far from “mission critical” — like discovering how a piece of machinery is assembled, or nutting out the pattern to a sequence of symbols.

This kind of puzzle can be frustrating, but the pleasure of eventually solving it spurs us on — and crucially, our brains process the anticipation of that understanding as a form of pleasure.

Chemically, even though we’ve done nothing useful, this is the same reward we get for achieving a survival goal.

And it’s that anticipatory pleasure pathway which goes into overdrive when we gamble. It can lead us to a place that addicts call “the zone”, where even winning the jackpot is a distraction from the game.

A well studied, very ingrained system

Dr Charles Livingstone, a gambling researcher from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, says the brain’s method of producing these rewards has a lot to do with two well-known forms of psychological conditioning.

The first is operant conditioning — made famous by psychologist BF Skinner in the 1950s.

Skinner experimented with pigeons, and noted that they would readily peck at a spot if they were rewarded with food. Crucially, the reward was not given at every peck; that allowed Skinner to investigate what he called the “schedule of reinforcement”.

“Skinner used rats and pigeons but humans are equally susceptible,” says Dr Livingstone.

“If you give them a predictable set of rewards, then they lose interest quite quickly; if it’s unpredictable, they tend to establish behaviour which is very hard to extinguish.”

The second manipulation is called classical conditioning — discovered way back in the 19th century by Anton Pavlov. He found that feeding a dog, and associating that food with a sound, meant that the dog would eventually salivate at the sound alone.

According to Dr Livingstone, gambling machines wrap together both types of conditioning: they offer rewards at unpredictable intervals, and they pair those rewards with encouraging noises and lights.

Designing for dopamine — the brain’s internal bribe

“In recent times we’ve discovered that the mechanism by which these two principles operate is through the brain’s reward circuit,” he explains.

The critical neurochemical in that circuit is dopamine; it gets secreted both when we anticipate a reward, and when we get one.

“This is a very old part of the brain, so animals like rats and pigeons and all sorts of animals are in exactly the same position as we are,” says Dr Livingstone.

“And it works because it provides you with a sense of euphoria and a reward sense — which is necessary when you are scrapping for survival out on the veldts of Africa.”

It’s also highly addictive. The dopamine release is what keeps people going back to addictive drugs like cocaine, Dr Livingstone says.

And over the past 100 years or so, the architects of gambling environments have become masters at utilising this chemical cycle in our brain — to the extent that gamblers really don’t welcome anything which disrupts it, because it takes them out of their “zone”.

“The zone was very much about flow and rhythm and repetition and just continuing,” says Natasha Schull, a cultural anthropologist who spent many hours in the casinos of Las Vegas researching the design of gambling environments and the way gamblers behave.

She spoke to addicts who said winning a jackpot just made them feel annoyed.

“When they won, the machine would make a lot of jingling noises, it would freeze up and play victorious music, sometimes people would look over at them… Essentially it interrupted the zone.”

A parallel universe with real-world consequences

Carolyn Hirsh is a former Victorian MP and psychologist, and was also a self-confessed gambling addict. She remembers the power of that psychological conditioning in action.

“There’s the music, there is the sound when you win, and you think ‘I’ve won’, although you haven’t — you’ve actually lost. But music plays,” she says.

“People come around and give you free coffee and look after you, there’s that nice feeling. But … I think the real thing is the way the machines are designed alters the brain.”

These changes to the gambling brain can do a lot of damage. Being in “the zone” means being in an alternate universe, where family and responsibility don’t seem important.

There’s even data to show an association between areas with a large number of poker machines and the rates of particular kinds of crime, Dr Livingstone says.

“The harms of gambling include separation, fraud, financial disaster, divorce, violence and neglect of children,” he says.

“They are associated with mental and physical ill health, and of course ultimately with suicide. Most people who experience gambling harm are too ashamed to admit that they have succumbed to such a silly addiction, as they see it.”

The debate around these harms, and who is responsible, is intensifying.

Help for individuals is available through crisis support bodies, but the effect on communities means that gaming industry methods are inevitably drawn into the political arena.

Poker machines are shaping up to be an electoral issue in Tasmania as community groups, councils, unions and professional associations call for the machines to be removed from some venues.

And a former addict is suing a casino and a pokie manufacturer, arguing that a particular machine is deceptive and addictive.

With so many stakeholders in how the pokies operate, however, there’s no obvious or easy fix for the problem.

Meanwhile, for those who gamble, the hard-wired allure of “the zone” is not going anywhere.

 

Australia has the highest rates of problem gambling in world, and the normalising of it through advertising and imbedded dialogue during live sport is going to affect generations to come.  Is it possible anymore to watch a game of AFL without a refence to the odds and the sportsbet favourite, from the commentators to the ads to the cuts to Sportsbet?

 

Online, interactive sports gambling addiction takes heavy toll on young men, says Tim Costello

While poker machines have been a perennial concern for problem gambling among older Australians, there is a slick and deceptive juggernaut quickly taking hold of young men — sports gambling.

According to Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesperson Tim Costello, the nature of watching live sport as a young man in Australia has changed dramatically.

Men are no longer taking an interest in just whether their team wins, they are financially invested in games they might have never watched because they have a wager on the outcome.

“Sports betting is the fastest growing level of addiction,” Mr Costello said.

“Pokies target middle-aged women who are invited to go to a club, dress up and someone opens the door for you and you sit there and devastate your life.

“Sports betting targets young men and that’s a rapidly growing area of addiction.”

Mr Costello’s thoughts have been echoed by an Australian Gambling Research Centre report into interactive gambling, which states that sports and race wagering are the dominant forms of interactive gambling in Australia, and interactive gamblers are more likely to be young men.

It is one of the key issues that will be discussed today at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus for The Spectrum of Gambling Harms Seminar.

Governments to blame for sports betting rise: Costello

Mr Costello said Australia had the highest rates of problem gambling in world, as well as being home to 20 per cent of the world’s poker machines.

He rejected the concept that betting was part of the Australian character, and has levelled the blame for the prevalence of gambling in Australia at state governments.

“The immoral failure of state governments to protect the vulnerable and instead allow more pokies is one of the big reasons [for problem gambling in Australia],” he said.

“Incessant sports betting and the lax rules that allow kids to be targeted with what are gambling products when the footy and cricket are on — that’s another one of the reasons.”

But Clubs NSW spokesperson Anthony Ball said the majority of people who played poker machines did it safely and within their budget.

”There’s a small fraction of the population that doesn’t and we’ve been committed to looking for ways to help people who do have a problem to help themselves,” he said.

“Australians are punters and it’s part of our history and culture and there’s no doubt pokies are a popular form of recreation for the working-class man.”

He said problem gambling rates in NSW had been falling and were below one per cent of the adult population.

“Clubs for a decade have been heavily invested in providing education for their staff and becoming better at identifying problematic behaviour.

“There is an abundance of information and people to talk to, and we want them to understand how poker machines work and allow people to exclude themselves using a web-based interface — every club with gambling does that and they care about their members.”

How interactive gambling can take hold

While a poker-machine player has the gatekeeper of a club employee, when it comes to interactive gambling it is done in private and on phones and home computers.

A problem gambler can place bets quietly and repeatedly without anyone seeing them to identify that there is something wrong.

ABC RN contributor Leigh shared his story of gambling addiction that eventually saw him convicted for fraud after stealing $130,000 from his employer to fuel his addiction.

“The bets would range anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 a day. I would bet until 3:00am, try to sleep for three hours and bet again for another three hours on online racing in the United States,” he said.

“I always thought the stereotypical gambling addict was a working-class, middle-aged man or woman, sitting at their local club, feeding their favourite pokies machine four or five nights a week, but I rarely ventured into the local TAB.”

Mr Costello said each problem gambler in Australia will lose about $1,100 dollars per year, which is the highest in the world.

Singapore is next highest for losses ($800), then Ireland ($600).

“Having done this for 20 years, you start to think ‘maybe it’s time to give up’, but the encouraging thing is that we now are seeing such disgust from the public at sports betting,” Mr Costello said.

“We’re going to get a ban on sports betting ads before 8:30 at night, and that’s pressure the Federal Government has been brought under, so that’s a win.”

 

By Justin Huntsdale

Posted 6 Sep 2017

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-06/sports-gambling-taking-hold-of-young-men/8877420

The amount of gambling advertising our kids are being exposed to on a daily basis would make it seem like gambling is now just a normal part of sport.

By making it seem normal, we don’t consider the risks in the same way we have in the past. And young people don’t always realise the difference between ads and reality, seeing betting as a quick, easy way to make money.

Gambling is seen as a normal part of sport, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are a number of myths surrounding gambling. Let’s debunk a few of them.

Myth 1

Sports betting ads don’t encourage kids to want to gamble as they’re not targeted to them.

Research found nearly a quarter of adolescents said they are more likely to gamble on other forms of gambling after seeing sports betting advertisements1

Myth 2

Adults are more exposed to gambling than kids.

Research found that exposure to gambling advertising was higher for 13 to 17 year olds than adults2

Myth 3

Betting on sports isn’t as risky as other forms of gambling because it involves skill.

Knowing a lot about a certain game of sport doesn’t guarantee a win. The best goal scorer doesn’t always kick the most goals, the favourite in a horse race doesn’t always win. It doesn’t matter how much you know, or your perceived “skill” level, because there’s no such thing as a sure bet.

Exert from: http://www.lovethegame.vic.gov.au/

With the 2017 AFL season nearly upon us, the sports betting agencies are gearing up for another onslaught of advertising across TV, Pay TV, radio, newspapers and the internet.  It really depresses me that our local game is now in bed with the betting agencies, so closely linked that the AFL relies on the money, while at the same time warning the AFL players of the dangers of gambling.  It was pleasing that some of the players have made comments about this irony recently, and with many AFL players now family men, they are also acutely aware of the responsibility they have to raise their own children in a gambling free environment – which is difficult to avoid when their kids are watching daddy on TV and there is a sports betting ad or odds update during every commercial break after a goal has been kicked.

GAMBLING advertising during AFL games is “out of control” according to Western Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood.

Wood took to Twitter during the telecast of Friday night’s AFLW game between the Bulldogs and Adelaide to raise his concerns and asked fans whether they agreed.

Wood’s tweet was retweeted more than 1000 times and had more than 2700 likes. Most of the replies were strong in their support, however some queried whether he would be prepared to play for less money if the gaming industry pulled its financial support for the game.

In a note attached to the tweet, he said the Bulldogs this week had their annual education session with the AFL, which he described as “both informative and well run.”

But he questioned why there was so much gambling advertising if gambling was such a big issue that it required an annual information session from the League.

“Why – as an industry – do we support the onslaught of gambling advertising you’re now faced with when watching an AFL game?” he wrote in the tweet.

“The obvious issue here is the effect this advertising has on children every time we pull on our boots. The big question is do we think the normalization of gambling – particularly to kids – is acceptable in this day and age?”

Friday night’s match was broadcast live on Fox Footy in Victoria, but the gambling industry advertises across all forms of live sport. The industry standard is that 10 per cent of advertising during live sport broadcasts can promote sports betting.

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Easton Wood

RESOLVING the issues surrounding gambling in the AFL won’t be easy but the conversation needs to happen, Geelong veteran Harry Taylor says.

Taylor said it was a concern to him that the eldest of his three children was able to name the gambling-related advertisements he saw when watching sport on TV.

However he said further education and discussion were critical if answers were to be found on the appropriate relationship between gambling and professional sport.

“When my eldest can name a lot of the ads on TV, that is a bit of a worry,” Taylor said.

“It’s certainly something that we need to keep talking about [and] educating people about. It’s not as simple as just cutting them out of the AFL.”

Western Bulldogs premiership skipper Easton Wood put the issue back on the agenda at the weekend when he questioned the level of gambling advertising during televised AFL games.

Wood wrote on social media: “Do we think the normalisation of gambling – particularly to kids – is acceptable in this day and age?”

Taylor said more education was needed for AFL players and society in general.

$814 million was lost on sportsbetting in 2014-15, which equates to $2 230 137 being lost by punters on sports EVERY DAY in Australia.

So if you think you can beat the system then well done and good luck for the future, as the hard evidence clearly shows that a lot of money is being lost by people betting on sports.  With the odds structures always favouring the sports betting agencies, they are taking their cut whether you win or lose, and then with the fickle nature of sports results, picking a winner is still no easier.

The only recommendation I can make to those who enjoy a punt on sports is to bet smart, look for value and ‘good bets’ and seek help if you are losing more than you are winning beyond the budget you have set for yourself.

Beaner

 

Punters lose $23 Billion

Richard Willingham and Benjamin Preiss
Published: August 22, 2016 – 8:02PM

Australian punters lost nearly $23 billion last year, with a 30 per cent growth in sports betting helping to drive a continued rise in annual gambling losses.

New Australian Gambling Statistics figures show Australians lost $1241 per head in 2014-15, with poker machines still the biggest cause of punter losses with $11.6 billion lost, an increase of 4.9 per cent.

The continued growth of punter losses reignited calls for state and federal governments to get serious about tackling problem gambling through action on sports betting advertising and pokies.

The annual compilation of all state and territory data shows that total expenditure, or gambler losses, hit $22.7 billion in 2014-15, an increase of 7.7 per cent on the previous financial year.

There has been an explosion in sports betting, with the sector growing by 30.1 per cent in 12 months – with predictions the exponential growth will continue.

But sports betting is still one of the smallest segments of the market, worth $814 million, compared to pokies, racing ($2.8 billion), and Lotto ($1.7 billion).

Traditional betting on racing was the smallest growing sector at just 2.7 per cent.

The Victorian government on Sunday announced a ban on betting ads near schools and on public transport, while Canberra is moving to crack down on offshore bookies, as well as strengthen consumer protection for local online punters.

There are also renewed calls from Senator Nick Xenophon, the Greens and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie for poker machine reform.

Gambling losses in total for Victoria hit almost $5.8 billion in the 2014-15, with poker machine losses surpassing $2.5 billion, propping up Treasury coffers by more than $1 billion.

In NSW, punter losses hit $8.9 billion, with $5.7 billion lost on the pokies alone, sports betting worth $162 million and racing $945 million.

Across the nation casinos raked in $5.1 billion of gambler losses, with Melbourne’s Crown Casino hauling in $1.8 billion.

Monash University Public Health expert Charles Livingstone said the growth in sports betting losses was “phenomenal”.

“It demonstrates why we need to better regulate promotion and advertising. Otherwise we’re facing big growth in gambling problems and harm from young men and women,” Dr Livingstone said.

“But the 600-pound gorilla of Australian gambling is still the pokies: $12 billion in losses per year, and still growing, year after year. If we’re worried by sports betting, we should be 13 times more worried about the pokies.”

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said state governments could fix the “poker machine madness”

“[That is] if any of them really cared about the issue,” he said.

The Australian Gambling Statistics 2014-15 shows that in Victoria total per person gambling losses hit $1250. Pokies losses was the biggest segment with $558 lost per Victorian.

In NSW, per person losses were higher at $1517.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the rate of problem gambling in the online sector was three times that of other areas.

“Many Australians love to gamble but we have to make sure the gambling environment is a safe one – that’s why we are cracking down on illegal offshore gambling providers and introducing much strong consumer protection for online gambling,” Mr Tudge said.

Deakin University associate professor of public health, Samantha Thomas, suspected sports betting had grown on the back of heavy marketing.

“While not all losses equal harm, a lot of them do. It’s time for governments to start to seriously consider the factors that are contributing to these growing losses and implement effective evidenced-based strategies to reduce harm,” she said.

“This includes addressing the factors from industry, such as prolific advertising or high intensity poker machines, that may be contributing to harm. Clearly, ‘gamble responsibly’ strategies are not having an impact on reducing losses or preventing harm.”

Victorian Gaming Regulation Minister Marlene Kairouz said the state government shared the community’s concerns about problem gambling. She said the government had invested $150 million over four years to support problem gambling services.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/australian-punters-lose-23-billion-half-on-the-pokies-20160822-gqyiz5.html

From the Age, July 15 2016

by Greg Baum

When Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie announced their mission to loosen the nexus between gambling and sport in Australia on Thursday, it was not hard to imagine that in the offices of some corporate bookies, the first thing they did was to frame a market on the likelihood of the politicians’ success, complete with cash-back options and bonus bets.

The next thing would have been to commission an advertising campaign featuring a bar and a couple of dorky young men frothing at their mouths while stroking their unshaven chins – quite dextrous, really – and two young women in the background, bestowing on them a patronising roll of their eyes.

“This is the gift horse everyone makes sure keeps its mouth shut.” Illustration: Jim Pavlidis.

It used to be said that Australians would bet on two flies crawling up a wall. It was an innocent enough image, implying friendly competition between mates at the manageable level of whatever they had in their pockets at the time, even if it did gloss over the certainty that one of them would always pick the wrong fly, yet refuse to give up, convince himself that the next fly on the other wall was a dead-set cert and be wrong again, with consequences no one much talked about then.

Now the cliche would be that Australians would bet on any two of thousands of contingencies arising out of happenings – not always sport – anywhere in the world, offered to them by a corporate bookie and outlaid and – sometimes – redeemed at the push of a smartphone button, no longer limited to loose change and ready cash, nor even by state or international borders, not restricted at all. Merry-making mates and the girls who so generously indulge them don’t come into it, no matter what the ads say.

The punt has become institutionalised, a miserable process. Australians used to be sceptical about institutions. Now we wear their T-shirts.

I can’t remember an election campaign like the most recent in the way the bookies’ markets were reported and dwelled upon about as prominently as the polls. The usual justification was that polls were not reliable, but the bookies rarely got it wrong. But they did this time.

Where does that leave us? Here, that the gambling industry has infiltrated every part of Australian life and become a massive force in it. Expect at the next election to hear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – if it is still him – declare not that he is confident of victory, but that he sees himself as a $1.05 chance.

We’ll confine ourselves here to sport. There, it is a matter of following the money. If you bet on sport, some part of your wager goes to a television network in the form of advertising revenue, then on to a sporting body as vast rights fees. If you play the pokies at a club venue, the profits go directly to the club and form a major and growing part of their incomes (but not at North Melbourne). Downstream, this leads to social dysfunction estimated by some to be as endemic as the legacy of alcohol abuse.

But this is the gift horse everyone makes sure keeps its mouth shut.

Sports bodies make vague noises about social commitment and their dedication to developing other forms of income, all the while collecting more and more of this guaranteed jackpot. Just this week, it emerged that Collingwood had promised renovations to a pokies pub it owns in Ringwood, but only if it was allowed to install 10 more machines. Bookies are no better: they preach responsible gambling, but pay fast-moving lip service to it in almost comical disclaimers at the end of ads, small print in smaller voices.

The least but most obvious effect of all this calculated conditioning is to the amenity of the sports fan. Whether on television or at the ground, the bookies and their spiel are in your face: in ads, on an expert panel, on the scoreboard, in the call. Briefly, even the industry realised that they were giving people the irrits, and pulled their heads in, but only a little. This is where Xenophon and Wilkie would like to start, by reducing or even banning gambling advertising during sports broadcasts and at venues.

They know the power of the medium, for good and evil. That power was central to successful crusades on smoking and the road toll.

Just this week, it was announced that the AIDS epidemic in Australia was over. That fight began with a spectacularly memorable public education campaign more than 20 years ago. If messaging makes this sort of impact, then so must its absence. The Australian Wagering Council knows this. Its defence of the status quo is that betting advertising can be a force for good, directing punters to Australian providers rather than those nasty off-shore outfits.

Political will is negligible. In the election campaign, gambling reform was a non-issue, not mentioned by Labor or the Coalition and rarely even by the Greens, who have the most stringent policy.

The many schisms in the new Parliament offer hope for Xenophon and Wilkie, but only if one of the major parties warms to their objective, which seems unlikely. Otherwise, they might as well try fence in the industry with fly swats. They won’t surrender, but the bookies would say that you can have $10 the pollies, with the margin set at 80 points of order.

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/gambling-reform-dont-bet-on-it-20160715-gq6rxh.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-22/social-media-games-potential-gateway-to-problem-gambling/7346018

By Norman Hermant

People who play simulated gambling games for free online are more likely to become problem gamblers in real life, according to a report from the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC).

Report’s key findings:

  • Children are more exposed to gambling than ever before
  • Online games are blurring the lines between simulated and real gambling
  • The games create unrealistic expectations about real-life gambling

The report also said the easy access to free gambling games on smart phones and tablets was a major concern.

The AGRC — part of Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies — said more and more people saw gambling as a part of everyday life and they were being exposed to gambling at younger ages than ever before.

“Young people today are growing up around these electronic games,” said Anna Thomas, one of the authors of the Is It Gambling Or A Game? report.

“This is introducing gambling to them at a much younger age than you’d normally expect.”

The report — a compilation of online gambling related research over the last 15 years — said the proliferation of gambling games raised a number of red flags:

  • Because the online games are so realistic, the lines between simulated gambling and real life “commercial” gambling are increasingly blurred.
  • Simulated gambling is accessed increasingly through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Players are heavily exposed to commercial gambling site advertising on these sites.
  • In simulated games, players are protected from the consequences of losing — they can just play again if their luck turns. That creates unrealistic expectations of gambling in real life.

“That’s the danger of these kinds of games,” said Jake Newstadt, who sought help for his gambling problems two years ago.

“They kind of plant potential messages inside of us that we’re not really aware of.”

 

‘It can become quite addictive’: reformed gambler

Mr Newstadt, 25, started gambling at age 12.

He now works as a project worker helping problem gamblers. He is not surprised by the popularity of simulated gambling games — everything from slot machines, to roulette, to online poker.

“On some level, these games do the same thing as real gambling,” he said.

“They trigger something in the brain where there’s this moment of anxiety about not knowing whether this result is going to go our way or not … and that pattern can become quite addictive.”

The AGRC report also raised concerns about online games that disguise their gambling components.

These games have nothing to do with gambling as a central theme. But they have opportunities to gamble embedded in the game.

The wildly popular online game Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is largely a first person shooter.

But players quickly learn the action is also a platform for numerous gambling games.

“They don’t explicitly say it, but that’s definitely what it is,” said 19-year-old Ashley Walton, who has been playing CS:GO for three years.

In CS:GO, players can purchase keys for around $3. The keys open digital cases, which reveal “prizes” a player can win — mostly different kinds of weapons to use in the game.

In a display box on the screen, the potential prizes slide by until one stops in the prize window.

“That was probably the first time I actually dabbled in gambling with real money,” said Mr Walton.

There is no limit on how many keys a player can buy. The prizes vary in value in an off-site digital aftermarket, where buyers will pay up to $1,000 for very rare items.

But Mr Walton said most of the prizes were worth less than the $3 the keys cost.

“The appeal for me was I just wanted to make money from it, while getting the items I wanted,” he said.

“But that fell through.”

Most parents unaware of simulated gambling

Anna Thomas from The Australian Gambling Research Centre said most parents were not aware of the gambling features embedded in many games.

“It can be a game that overtly has nothing to do with gambling,” she said.

“You may have no idea that (your kids) are actually going into a room … and having that experience in another game that’s really something completely different to gambling.”

One of the report’s key recommendations is much more thorough regulation of these games.

Currently, computer games are regulated by the Commonwealth’s Classification Board.

“There’s a need for much more consistent and comprehensive information and advice,” Ms Thomas said.

“You might have the same game that on one platform is rated M, on another platform may have no rating at all, or 12 plus. Very little information to guide players or parents who are looking at the games that their children are playing.”