Young people vulnerable to Spring Racing's other dark side

28 October, 2019

With the sheen coming off the glamour of the Spring Racing Carnival, Victoria’s largest gambler’s help organisation warns that young people are at increasing risk of gambling harm, with the seeds of harm often sown at the festival that draws them in with the lure of glamour and success.

Already in the spotlight for animal rights issues, Gambler’s Help Southern warns that horse racing can also be where young people start a life time of betting, while in their mid-teens.

CEO of Connect Health & Community which runs Gambler’s Help Southern, Amanda Murphy, said spring racing is a time of year when many people enjoy a bet, or a day at the races with family and friends.

“Beneath the veneer of ‘good fun,’ spring racing can be a time when people experience significant gambling harm. They may bet more than they can afford to lose or bet more frequently. And for many young people, even though they’re under age, it might be when they place their first bet, potentially being hooked for life,” she said.

Ms Murphy said gambling harm is more prevalent than we realise, with more than half a million Victorians experiencing some form of gambling harm each year.

“Australians lose more on gambling per person than any other country. We spend more money gambling than on any other activity that can be addictive and dangerous, including alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, combined. In 2016/2017 Australians bet $208 billion, compared with $43.4 billion on other addictive substances including alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs and coffee,” she said.

Ms Murphy said technology is making it easier than ever to gamble with online apps and smartphones, which particularly appeal to younger people.

"In the past gambling required making a series of choices, which all took time. You had to choose to go to the TAB, when it was open. You had to choose between betting on horses or dogs, and you had to make a selection on cards, then line up and finally, place your bet. Today all you need is a smartphone – and 8 in 10 adolescents have one,” she said.

“Research shows online games are being developed as gateways to gambling. Team this with the lure of glamour and success that comes with going to the races and our young people are particularly vulnerable,” Ms Murphy said.

Ms Murphy said the increased ease and accessibility of gambling makes it harder to spot someone experiencing gambling harm.

“Your successful mate from school who enjoys the odd punt, the school mum who needs a little excitement in her life, the older gent who does the school crossing, the tradie who’s building your home – any one of these people, or their family and friends, may be experiencing harm as a result of their gambling,” she said.

View the Mario’s story to find out how gambling harm can take hold of your life from a young age.

 Gambling and young people statistics

  • 1 in 5 adults with gambling problems starts gambling before they’re 18.
  • 3-4% of Australian teenagers have a problem with gambling, that’s the equivalent of one in every high school classroom.
  • Betting is often considered a social activity with research showing 6 out of 10 young people who bet, do so with at least one other person, usually a friend.

Ms Murphy said, “Anyone can experience negative effects of gambling, but it is not something we talk about openly. That’s why Gambler’s Help Southern is here with free, confidential services to help,” she said.

If you are concerned about the impact of your gambling, or that of someone close to you, call Gambler’s Help Southern 03) 9575 5353.

Gambler’s Help Southern is a program of Connect Health and Community.

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