Gambling is legal, but help those who are most at risk


It comes as no surprise to learn almost half of all gambling losses in the Australian Capital Territory are incurred by a relatively small number of “problem gamblers”.

This is very much in line with what happens elsewhere in Australia and overseas.

The unsurprising statistic, that about $60 million was dropped by just 1.5 per cent of adult gamblers, is contained in an Australian National University study released on Tuesday.

According to the study about one per cent of all ACT gamblers, who make up just 0.4 per cent of the Territory population overall, fall within the “extreme high risk gambling category”.

They are the unfortunates who are cursed with an irresistible compulsion to wager that ultimately destroys relationships, careers and lives.

This one per cent of extreme gamblers accounts for more than 11 per cent of all gambling losses and, in doing so, contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the coffers of the various casino, club and other gambling venue operators and, of course, the ACT government.

When people with “moderate and lower level problems” are taken into account, problem gamblers bear the cost of about 44 per cent of all gambling losses overall.

While gambling is a legal activity and one which, given its long established place in Australian culture and folklore, many people would be reluctant to see banned, it is also a social scourge for some.

As with alcohol and drugs, there are those among us who just can’t stop once the addiction has planted its hooks into them.

These unfortunates are not the only victims. Spouses, children, friends and employers are all at risk of losing out in one way or another as the search for cash to feed the habit becomes ever more desperate.

There is a clear obligation on the part of those who are profiting from human misery, in this case the government and the gambling venues, to do more than just pay lip service to the need to help problem gamblers.

While community welfare groups have long argued that more should be done to protect people from themselves in this regard, operators have sometimes appeared reluctant to do more than the bare minimum required of them.

The issue has been further complicated by the rapid rise of sports betting websites and the now ubiquitous presence of offshore gambling sites in the market in recent years.

While, on the one hand, it is gratifying to learn Canberrans are spending less at the races [down 39 per cent], the casino [down 32 per cent], the pokies [down 28 per cent] and even the lottery [down 13 per cent] than in 2009, the latest data shows gambling losses have only dropped 20 per cent.

This would indicate there has been a significant migration to online gambling forums whose only concern is maximising their take regardless of the human cost.






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