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More gambling warnings for the world’s biggest losers

The ‘gamble responsibly’ tagline will be retired and gambling companies will replace it with new messages, but some say this isn’t the solution.

Gambling companies such as Ladbrokes, Sportsbet and TAB will have to retire the ‘gamble responsibly’ tagline in their ads from March.

Instead, they must use one of the seven new slogans approved by the government and rotate them over a 12-month period.

The new mottos include: “Chances are you’re about to lose”; “You win some. You lose more”; “What’s gambling really costing you?” and “What are you really gambling with?”

The idea behind rotating the slogans is to prevent viewers from being accustomed to the message.

When on screen, the new lines must accompany information about gambling addiction resources and appear in the largest font possible to take up a third of the on-screen space.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the ‘gamble responsibly’ line was not really working.

“Evidence and research clearly shows the ‘gamble responsibly’ message doesn’t do the job of getting people to think and to minimise harm,” she said on ABC Radio.

Australia’s blindspot

Alliance for Gambling Reform CEO Carol Bennett told TND the change of slogans were not a solution, but were a welcome step in the right direction.

Guns are America’s blindspot, gambling is Australia’s, Ms Bennett said, adding we are the biggest “losers” in the world by 40 per cent.

“We’ve got an exponential rise in gambling harm itself and its impact in health, mental health, in social terms – relationship breakdown, financial losses, productivity, domestic violence,” she said.

“It disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“For too long we have blamed individuals for gambling harm and in fact, we know that gambling is a public health issue and it should be treated as one,” she said.

“So moving away from blaming the victim and actually looking at the system and how it’s supporting the increase of gambling harm is definitely a move in the right direction from our perspective.”

Monash University’s senior lecturer and head of gambling and social determinants unit, Dr Charles Livingstone agreed the ‘gamble responsibly’ slogan just shifted the blame.

Marginal effect

It was just a slogan invented by the gambling industry to “pretend that they cared” about the harm caused by gambling, Dr Livingstone said.

He is happy to see the slogan being retired, but he warned it might only have some marginal effect.

“I mean, the reality is until you start changing the conditions under which the product is offered, you’re not gonna see much change,” he said.

“We’ve got a system where nearly 1000 ads a day, on average, are bombarding our TV screens, and so on that we’ve got ineffective restrictions on advertising in front of children.

“We’ve got sponsorships of large sporting organisations, teams and clubs and conducted by these people and we have this massively rapidly growing sector which has enormous resources and can market as much as it likes.”

Until those issues were addressed, we won’t see much change, he said.

A  growing problem

Nicole Hayes, an admin and intake co-ordinator for GambleAware in mid and northern New South Wales, sees the devastating effects gambling has on a community.

She has seen people from all walks of life come to get help, she said.

“It’s so varied across many, many activities and many ages,” Ms Hayes said.

“So we’ve got people that are in their young 20s to in their 80s, so it’s something that doesn’t discriminate at all, unfortunately.”

Although COVID-19 lockdowns meant people couldn’t go to the pokies, other accessible forms of gambling became more of a problem.

Ms Hayes said it has become one of the biggest forms of gambling among people seeking help through GambleAware.

Ban gambling ads

Despite Australians knowing the harm gambling causes, both Ms Bennett and Dr Livingstone agree that Australia has somewhat normalised it.

“The reason why we’re the world’s greatest gamblers is we have more gaming opportunities than anyone else,” Dr Livingstone said.

Ms Bennett is in favour of getting rid of gambling advertising.

Dr Livingstone agrees it should be prohibited, saying it’s not a “fundamental human right to be subjected to gambling advertising”.

It might be unlikely to have all gambling advertising banned, but there are other steps Ms Bennett and Dr Livingstone want to see.

“We need to see our politicians stand up and lead and take responsibility,” Ms Bennett said.

Dr Livingstone is glad the federal government has taken some steps, but he would like to see a national system of regulation, consistent across the states, especially regarding online gambling.

There also needs to be more awareness about the damage it can cause, better prevention, opportunities and programs for communities, Ms Bennett said.

She said that we are not seeing a proportionate response to the problem within Australia.

“We have a lot of work to do on every front and frankly, we haven’t even begun [the] task of addressing gambling-related harm.”

Ms Hayes wants people to know that there is free and confidential help available, not just for those who have an addiction, but also for friends and family.

National Gambling Helpline: 1800 858 858

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