It's all just a bit of fun, right?

When I see this picture of dogs playing poker, it all seems like great fun. I mean, what sort of a wowser wouldn’t like to see dogs wagering whilst wearing waistcoats and hats? It’s hilarious! 

I would however like to see another picture in the series. Perhaps the border collie is returning home. Seated around another table is Mrs Border Collie holding an eviction notice and a bunch of hungry unfed pups disappointedly looking up at their gambling addicted father with sad puppy dog eyes. I think that would balance things out nicely.

Unfortunately, in Australia we have a very unbalanced view of gambling. Constantly, we are bombarded with ads telling us that gambling is just a bit of fun. Sports betting agencies pump countless millions into ads aimed at getting more and more people hooked on having a regular punt. At the end of these ads is a tiny message saying ‘gamble responsibly’ (which isn’t quite as impactful as the amputated leg on the back of cigarette packets).

When I told a friend that I won’t be having a bet on the Melbourne Cup, he told me it was ‘unAustralian’. While I could have argued the point, I’m definitely not fitting the norm. Australians are in fact, the world’s biggest gamblers.

A larger proportion of Australians (80%)engage in some kind of gambling, than the citizens of any other country. We also lose more than anyone else. In 2014 we lost $21.5 billion on gambling. While for the average Aussie that meant blowing  $1,144 a year on bets, addicted gamblers wasted an astonishing $21,000 annually.

For most gambling addicts it’s not a whole lot of fun. As losses and problems mount, feelings of anxiety and shame become far more common. Assets may be seized, relationships may fail and mental health problems may reach crisis point – but you won’t hear these outcomes mentioned in the cheerful ultra-blokey voiceovers that accompany the betting ads.

A friendly suggestion

This year for the Melbourne Cup you could put on a bet, put on a hat and holler loudly as some horses run around in a circle. Or you could break free from the clutches of the gambling industry and do something a whole lot more fun…

Remember, when the race that stops the nation, stops the nation, you’ve got 3 whole minutes when everyone else will be glued to a screen whilst screaming loudly in the false belief that this will encourage their chosen horse to go faster! At 3.00pm today you can actually dance like no one is watching. You can sing at the top of your lungs. You can steal the good stapler from your workmate’s desk! The opportunities for real fun are endless.

Alternatively, you could just spend three minutes deleting betting apps from your phone and then start planning a holiday with all the money you will save. Go to Fiji! It’s lovely.

If you or someone you know is affected by gambling, please consider accessing support via gamblinghelponline.org.au or by calling 1800 858 858.

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