An investigation into Australia's gambling addictionby Julia André
Jacob was smart about his bets, he knew the game and played to his strengths. What he didn’t know was that he’d go on to lose fifteen years of his life to a sports betting addiction.
“Often the only social amenity in such a community is a pub or club that is chock-a-block full of pokies. In my opinion, Sydney’s clubs and pubs have crowded out all the alternative venues and music sites that are available in other parts of Australia so you end up getting forced into these places because they’re the only places open. Plus they’re a place to get cheap grog and a cheap meal. And that’s their business model to entice you to get in,” says Dr Livingstone.
It’s a bold move considering NSW is the poker machine capital of Australia. Between 2010 and 2019, Clubs NSW donated $2.5 million to individuals MP’s across Australia. In the 2018-19 financial period, Australian Hotels & Hospitality Association Inc. donated $1,077,386 to various Liberal and Labor parties and branches. Australian Hotels Association NSW trailed a little behind, donating $479,629.
Pre-COVID, Victorian poker machine venues were allowed to operate within pubs and clubs for 20 hours a day, the longest period in the country. In 2017-2018 Victorians spent $5.81 billion on gambling losses. But the state’s COVID-19 lockdowns have enabled Victorians to save $1.58 billion on poker machine losses since March 23. The Alliance for Gambling Reform suggests that this extra expenditure has most likely been spent on the struggling Victorian economy.
“We were really excited for the COVID period because we had these silver linings stories of people being able to buy easter eggs for their grandchildren for the first time or taking their grandmother to garden together instead of going to their local club,” says Quixley.
“Gambling is not something that’s inherent to our culture and it’s actually the antithesis to many of the values that Australians hold dear, things like fairness, and equality and community, this is what’s important, this is what we’ve learnt through COVID and these are things that are really undermined by gambling’s saturation in sport,” says Quixley.
*Name has been changed.
Gamblers Helpline 1800 858 858 gamblershelp.com.au