When I was child I spent my weekends swimming in my friend’s pool. It was deeper than I could dive and wider than my entire backyard.
Her mother would watch from the edge and occasionally call us over
“Girls, let’s play a game. If you can swim 10 laps, I’ll give you 10 dollars. If you can swim another 10, I’ll give you 20 but if you give up, you’ll lose it all. It’s called double or nothing,” she said.
This was my first introduction to gambling, and also the most powerful. We could only ever swim nine laps but on the rare occasions we made it to 10, we would always try for another 10.
The lure of ‘what could be’ was too strong.
Every year we see the ‘big win’ story of some lucky punter who bet a few bob on The Melbourne Cup and walked away with thousands.
The story of this 'miracle!' win travels through the news circuit like fire down a line of gas.
This is not a 'good news story'. This is a moral line of credit to every problem gambler in the country.
This is the story that starts the fantasy. This is the beginning of the "a friend of a friend of mine won...." This is the justification for every "last" $20 withdrawn from the local RSL's ATM.
For every big winner in this country, there are countless big losers.
Can you imagine if we placed the same amount of coverage on the Aussie battler who lost $8000 of money he didn't have?
What about the mum who bet next week's groceries on the hope it would win enough to pay for next month's too?
Many people will read the 'big win' stories and not think of them again until the next race day, but this is not the case for everyone.
The mother of my friend who owned that pool later drove her family to bankruptcy due to a crippling addiction to poker machines.
Her children were pulled from elite schools, her house was sold, and the millions she earned slipped into slots.
The 'amazing' win stories may not mean much to you, but they can wreck devastation on the life and family of a problem gambler.
The Melbourne Cup may be the race that stops the nation, but it's also the one that starts many sad conversation at home.