By Chelsea McNeill
A Sydney researcher says tens of thousands of Australians are suffering at the hands of a gambling epidemic.
About 250,000 Australians have a gambling disorder and more than half a million experience moderate to severe harm related to gambling behaviour, according to Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Co-Director of the Gambling Treatment & Research Clinic at the University of Sydney.
In WA, most Gambling Anonymous attendees are 20 to 30-year-old males addicted to betting on sports apps, says Peter (surname withheld), a long-time employee of the group.
“We see gambling as a money problem, but it’s an emotional problem with financial consequences,” he says.
“Gambling is a mood changer in the same way that drugs and alcohol are mood changers. The chemistry of all addictions is the same.”
Peter says he doesn’t think gambling should be banned, but the advertising should be.
He says the difference between cigarettes and gambling when it comes to advertising bans, is that smoking costs the government money, whereas it makes money from gambling tax.
“Government is in bed with the bookies” and doesn’t pay the costs associated with gambling problems that friends, family and employers have to pay, he says.
“[Advertising of gambling] is having a profound effect [on kids]. When I was a kid, I would say ‘my team’s going to win by six goals on the weekend’, but kids these days say, ‘my team’s paying $1.40 on Saturday, they should win’.”
When asked about an alleged $850,000 bet placed on the federal election on the weekend, Peter says it could be a marketing ploy, rather than a legitimate bet by a punter.
In addition, Peter says “it’s not about how much you bet, it’s about how much you can afford to bet.”
Blaszczynski suggests operators should learn how to identify and respond appropriately to punters exhibiting signs of problem gambling.
The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor and numerous betting agencies were contacted for comment, with no response.