Allan Takes Aim Blog

What’s your favourite gamble?

Posted on: 1 December 2010

 First published The Chronicle, Tuesday 30 November, 2010 

I only bet on sure things such as, some time today Boadicea will fall out with me. It’s also a sure thing that in Parliament a number of Government and Opposition MPs will spend a great deal of time trying to malign each other while a handful of MPs called Independents will try to make up their minds about which of the latter to believe while a Green MP will work hard at trying to make Green the voters favourite colour. 

On the other hand in ACT Assembly what seems likely to take place is another episode in the long running saga that not only are poker machines bad for your financial, mental and physical health, they might also lead you to falling into the pit reserved for the debauched and dissolute.

To show the importance of this subject, both commercial and ABC talk back radio have interviewed the CEO of the Registered Clubs Association (members clubs have scores of poker machines) whose job it is to protect members’ interests, the CEO of Lifeline which tries to stop people gambling and falling into the pit, not to mention some worthy MLAs.

It should come as no surprise that State and Territory Governments are addicted to gambling revenues. They are addicted because while they know voters might hate politicians they like to gamble which makes gambling an easier way to raise money than by taxing voters directly. Let me add that I am not without experience of gambling and am aware of the problems gambling addiction can cause having spent a number of years in the UK casino business and also having visited the illegal casinos that operated some years ago in Canberra.

Although I am not a gambler neither am I anti gambling and nor do I understand why the anti gambling lobby is focussed on poker machines. The fact is gambling on poker machines is now as much an Australian tradition as horse racing, cricket, rugby league, Australia Rules, two – up, or betting on flies climbing up a wall. 

I would also hazard a guess (is that gambling?) that poker machines are not the only cause of problems associated with gambling. In fact it seems to me that lotteries are as big a problem. Indeed I know people who never play poker machines but have become addicted to lotteries because of their big jackpots. But what makes lotteries a bigger attraction for gamblers than poker machines is that even the biggest poker machine’s jackpot rarely compares with a lottery’s smallest jackpot. And what makes them more addictive is their easy accessibility. Addicts don’t need to visit a pub, club or casino to access and play them; they can access them in a wide variety of outlets take them home and play them.

Although anti gamblers want all gambling activities curtailed, poker machines are the focus of their anti gambling propaganda. Much of this propaganda, or so it seems to me, has been developed by addicts suffering from compensatory neurosis which means, that if they can’t play the pokies because of their addiction, they compensate by trying to stop other people playing them.    

I’d also like to make the point that contrary to much anti gambling advertising, not only women become gambling addicts: men do too. Yet much anti gambling propaganda comprises horror stories of them spending the housekeeping money and ending up unable to feed or clothe their children This, in turn, leads to children not going to school and joining in school trips, or enjoying themselves with their peer group. 

Experience has taught me that when men spend their wages gambling, the problems become worse. Rent and/or mortgages don’t get paid and families get evicted, which often leads to them becoming part of society’s burgeoning army of homeless and hopeless.

The real question is: can gambling be cured? For centuries, many programmes have been tried but only abstinence has proved successful. On the other hand perhaps successful programmes could be developed if instead of the poker machine monies being given to government by clubs, they were added to the money made available by government to current programmes?

While this might not be a sure thing, I think it’s an idea worth betting on. 

The Chronicle, Canberra, for the best community news. Published every Tuesday


2 Responses to "What’s your favourite gamble?"

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