Gambling. Such a hard one. It can be fun – part of being an Aussie, some would say. Whether it’s a $5 sweep on the Melbourne Cup, a $10 tipple on Two Up on Anzac Day or a $20 scratchie ticket every few weeks.
But it can also be sad. And devastating. And ruin lives, and break up families. I’ve seen it happen.
While most of us don’t gamble very much, when we do, we might be more inclined to buy a lotto ticket than play the pokies or place a bet on sport – but the truth is, it’s getting easier to gamble. And that’s scary.
All you need is a smart phone and an online bank account and you can gamble on just about any sports game anywhere in the world, at any time.
Pubs and clubs open early and close late, and if you find a pub in Australia that doesn’t have a pokie let me know – I’ll meet you there.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
A friend of mine once sought help. He would spend his pay before it had even gone through to his bank account, and would constantly be trying to play catch-up after borrowing money off, and subsequently losing, friend after friend.
In the end, he took himself to his local pub(s) and got himself banned. Put his photo up on the wall, and gave permission for the pub to boot him out if he tried to gamble.
He was young, and scared. He didn’t want to go down the slippery slope he was sure to, and he did something about it.
And I’ve never been prouder of him.
We all have problems, issues, and things to deal with. But seeking help, taking care of yourself and asking for advice from professionals is the best, most proactive and brave thing you can do.
Unfortunately, less than 10 per cent of people experiencing a problem with gambling seek professional help. And a quarter of those who don’t seek help, say it’s because they are embarrassed and ashamed.
I want to say that’s sad, but it’s not. It’s normal. Anyone with an issue, no matter how big or small, feels like they’ve failed. But the only time that’s true is if you realise you have a problem and don’t seek help.
Studies have shown people who’ve had a major stress or change in their life, like divorce, sickness or children moving away from home, can be more vulnerable to developing a problem with the pokies.
I get that. It’s an escape, a fantasy, a ‘my life could change any minute now’ moment. And there may be the buzz of a win, but it’s inevitably followed by loss, after loss…after loss.
And it’s not worth it. Is it? Surely not.
My husband knows a guy who won $640,000 on the Melbourne Cup. I have no idea how much he gambled, but I’m betting it was a lot. The next week, my husband told me he lost $90,000 in one bet, in one minute, on one random Wednesday night race. Gulp.
I doubt that man’s wife knew the kind of money he was blowing – but imagine how he would be feeling. The guilt, the despair, the desperation. Wouldn’t it feel better to go to the person you love the most in the world and say ‘I need help. I’ve stuffed up. I need to change this.’
But no. The guys at the pub talk about it, sure – whispering among themselves. They were probably jealous that he has free reign on the bank account and they don’t.
But I guarantee no one said to him ‘mate, you sure you want to do that?’. Or ‘hey, this is boring – let’s play pool instead’. Nope.
And if they had, would he still have lost all that cash? Maybe not. And maybe he’d still be married too.
Imagine the feeling of relief, even knowing someone is there to listen, help and support you along the way.
That’s what more than 3,200 people have done in the last 10 months. They have taken control of their gambling problem by signing up for the Fight For You 100 Day Challenge.
Foundation ambassador and 100 Day Challenge participant Matt Torcasio, 27, says he hasn’t looked back since starting.
“I’ve been seeing a Gambler’s Help counsellor every week since completing the challenge, and it’s really helping me keep on track,” he says.
“I’ve not gambled for over 325 days and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Another challenger is 50-year-old mum Anna Knappe, who is also over 100 days gamble-free.
“Fighting the urge to gamble is incredibly hard, but I’ve kept my goals in sight and stuck with it,” she says.
“Recovery isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s a journey of self-discovery.
“I know the hard work isn’t over, but I’m determined to keep seeing my counsellor and continue celebrating the days I’ve been gamble free.”
If you have a friend who might be struggling, or you are yourself, reach out. The odds of getting in control are in your favour… if you take them! And that’s a real win, isn’t it?
For more information visit fightforyou.com.au.
If you need help, or want to help someone who needs it, free confidential help and information is available for gamblers and their families, 24/7 through the Gambler’s Helpline on 1800 858 858 or Gambling Help online at gamblinghelponline.org.au
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation aims to reduce the prevalence and harms of problem gambling and to help those who choose to gamble, to do so responsibly.
A range of support services are available for people experiencing problems with gambling. To find out more, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 or visit fightforyou.com.au.