The Impact of Sports Betting

Gambling is becoming more and more prevalent within Australia.  It has the potential to affect a person’s mental health, their financial well being and their family unit.  As a GP, my role is to identify whether my patient may have a gambling problem, educate them on what gambling can do and empower them to correct this potentially harmful behaviour.

Looking at today’s landscape it seems as though the odds are stacked against any one who may want to avoid gambling.  All of us seem to be inundated with advertising in one form or the other – whether it be watching our favourite sports team play or browsing our social media accounts.  In my opinion one demographic is being heavily targeted through sophisticated advertising and psychology: young men.

A lot of what I’m basing my blog post on today is from the August 2018 study “Weighing up the odds: Sports betting and young men” which was commissioned by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.  The report makes a lot of good points which I will summarise now.

They note that sports betting in Australia has grown rapidly in recent years through a combination of intensive marketing and new technologies to place bets.  With the advent of new technology the old barrier of having to physically go down to the TAB is gone.  A person can now grab their phone out of their pocket, launch an app and begin gambling.  This can be done day or night, during work or at home.  By removing any barriers to betting they are taking away any opportunity for reflection a person may have before they place that bet.

They analyse the type of advertising that is shown to young men.  They note that the current advertising trends target the idea of mateship, sporting rituals and patriotism.  They note that they are typically upbeat, focusing on positive outcomes such as winning rather than focusing on the potential for loss.  They note that they sponsor sporting teams.  Who can remember bookies being passed off as commentators on rugby league games.  How this was ever allowed by channel nine is still beyond me.

Young men are thought to be particularly vulnerable to promotions that are used in sports betting advertising.  I only have to turn the TV on during Friday night football to see what deals will allow me to “bet better”.

Australia is an anomaly with its gambling culture.  The closest to us may be the USA.  If you think you may have a bad relationship with gambling or feel as though you may have lost control your GP can definitely help.  Currently there are some support services available through the Australian Government.  These are great but your GP is able to counsel you, screen for any other things that may be contributing to this behaviour and then employ evidence based practices (mainly cognitive behavioural therapy).

I hope that by shining a light on this I may be able to get some people thinking about what their relationship with gambling is, and whether they are the ones being played.  As the saying goes the house always wins.

 – Dr Tim