The Hidden Cost of Gambling

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9 May 2018

by Cassandra Barrett, Mental Health Promotion Officer

In recent weeks, many of us will have noticed the latest ‘Love the game. Not the odds.’ campaign circulating on TV and radio from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

The impact of sports betting advertising, particularly on young people, has garnered significant attention.  This is good news given that recent research by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation revealed that between 60 and 70 percent of children have gambled, and one in 25 teenagers has a gambling problem.

While the increasing focus on sports-related betting is encouraging, we still don’t often hear about the most widespread and insidious form of gambling in Australia: electronic gaming machines, or ‘pokies’.

Australia is the world leader in per-capita gambling losses, with losses 2-3 times greater than any other country. Almost half of this loss is to poker machines alone.

Between 2016 and 2017, Victorians lost a total of $2.6 billion at the pokies – that equates to an averaged $7,149,397 every day.

And while it is true that poker machine losses tend to be concentrated in outer suburbs, the areas in which the majority of our Jewish community reside are certainly not immune. In 2016/17, over $76 million was lost to electronic gaming machines in the City of Glen Eira alone; that equates to around $209,000 per day.

Gambling harm has a variety of health impacts and is a leading contributor to Victoria’s burden of disease. Though certain groups are particularly vulnerable – for example, elderly people who are socially isolated and new migrants who seek to fit in with ‘Aussie culture’, gambling-related harm affects people from all walks of life, including the Jewish community.

“Much like mental illness, family violence or substance use, there is this perception that taboo social issues like gambling don’t affect the Jewish community, and it’s simply not true,” said Jewish Care’s Senior Financial Counsellor, Mark Phillips.

“Sadly, that stigma often means that people don’t seek help, or they delay seeking help until they are in crisis and experiencing extreme financial hardship as a result of gambling.”

Mr Phillips reports that an increasing number of people, from right across the community, are presenting to Jewish Care’s financial counselling service for assistance with managing gambling-related harm.

“The key thing we want people to know is that they’re not alone. There’s no need to be ashamed. Help is available and the sooner it is sought, the better.”

How would I know if someone is experiencing gambling-related harm?

Harm from gambling isn’t just about losing money. Gambling can affect a person’s self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health, and performance at work or study. If you’re concerned for someone, look out for: 

  • Financial difficulties such as unexplained debt, loss of savings or assets, multiple loans or credit cards
  • Regularly organising or preferring social events that revolve around gambling
  • Disappearing for large amounts of time or being unwilling to account for whereabouts
  • Behavioural signs such as secretiveness, social withdrawal or avoidance
  • Interpersonal issues, such as moodiness, anger and relationship conflict
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, depression or helplessness
  • Reduced performance at work or study

If you or someone you know is affected by gambling, please reach out. Call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858. For more information about Jewish Care’s free and confidential Financial Counselling service, call the Front Door on (03) 8517 5999 or click here.

Jewish Care sits on the advisory committee of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria’s BREAK IT project, which seeks to prevent gambling-related harm in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.