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Melbourne Cup: the race that stops recovery for gambling addicts

3 November 2015 Wesley Mission news

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For 12 years, Tom was a regular gambler, betting on races, using poker machines and gambling online. But when he realised what a negative impact his gambling was having on his life, Tom was determined to make a change. He recently sought counselling from Wesley Mission and has not gambled for seven weeks—a huge achievement for someone for whom gambling had become such a regular activity. But Tom is worried about today’s Melbourne Cup.

As the nation gears up for the big race, advertising for everything Cup-related, including online gambling and fashion is everywhere in the media, triggering cravings and urges in those with gambling problems. To prepare for the onslaught, Tom has had further counselling in the lead up to the Melbourne Cup.

Technology makes it harder for those with a gambling problem to avoid the Melbourne Cup

The CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev Dr Keith Garner said the Melbourne Cup may be the sporting event that stops the nation but for some it is the occasion that stops recovery.

“Betting was once a practice confined largely to a sub-culture in our society—not anymore,” he said. “Technology has made betting a mass consumption occupation and allowed people to engage with major sporting events.

“Technology through the use of smartphones and tablets has allowed more people to bet. Such a practice blurs the line between a public and private activity.”

A gambling culture

According to Wesley Mission counsellor Martina Winch, many clients have expressed a noticeable increase in advertising for the Cup this year.

“The Melbourne Cup is considered by many to be a day that rivals Australia Day in popularity,” Martina said. “However there comes a social pressure to gamble which can lead to great challenges and harm for those in recovery.

“A common question I get asked is ‘but can I still bet on Melbourne Cup day?’ This confusion and social pressure often triggers a relapse for many clients with a goal of abstinence. My clients have also mentioned that the notable increase in pre-cup television advertising this year has substantially contributed to their urges and cravings.

“New betting regulations and an increase in the use of technology now allows punters to place a bet on their phone once the race starts, again adding to the temptation and impulse to gamble.”

More young people gambling

A recent University of Sydney study found that there is a significant increase in race gambling participation for young people due to television advertising and seeing their parents gamble.

“This vulnerable demographic is more likely to fall prey to high-level problem gambling addiction later in life. For many, however, it can take a decade or more of problem gambling behaviour before the client reaches out for help’” the report advised.

“The associated social harms attached to this increase in problem gambling is clearly evident due to the ever increasing number of young clients and their families seeking gambling and financial counselling here at Wesley Mission.”

For free Gambling Counselling; please call Gambling Help 1800 858 858