Australia’s gambling problem has come to light following a confronting ABC documentary this week.
Cultural anthropologist Dr Natasha Dow Schull likens gambling addiction to drug addiction, and said that people find it hard to differentiate between the two.
“Slot machines have been called the crack-cocaine of gambling, electronic morpheine,” she said on the program.
“Some people have a hard time grasping that a machine could be addictive. They associate addiction with substances that are inhaled or put into the body.”
The documentary follows research conducted by Financial Counselling Australia (FCA), which released a report in August titled Dud’s, Mugs and the A-List.
Lauren Levin, a financial counsellor at FCA, helped compile the report, which is solely aimed at gamblers who have complications as a result of problem gambling.
Mrs Levin told The Newsroom the report describes financial issues arising from betting on sports.
“Financial Counselling Australia is the national peak body for financial counsellors, and consult people with debt problems who can not pay their bills,” Mrs Levin said.
The counsellor claimed males were the biggest offenders, with young men aged 20-25 losing money mainly from online gambling applications.
“Younger men are losing really large sums of money through a short period of time due to online sports betting and gambling,” said Mrs Levin.
Mary Zerafa, 54, is a part-time florist and gambles at the Liverpool Catholic Club in Prestons almost daily, sometimes gambling up to $3000 a day that she claims helps assist with personal issues.
“I lose a lot more than I win, but it’s a good getaway from personal responsibilities and issues,” she told The Newsroom.
She also said she could understand why the machines are so appealing, and claims they lure people in with the possibility of jackpots and the illusion of winning.
“The bells and whistles, as well as the bright lights, draw you in to gamble,” she said.
“The illusion of winning is too strong sometimes.”
An ex-gambling addict Jarod Johnson, 30, eventually recovered from a financial catastrophe, but told The Newsroom that gambling significantly affected his life, from losing family members to his girlfriend, who abandoned him after several years of abuse.
“I broke up with my girlfriend of three years, and after I was rehabilitated I found out that she got married,” he said.
“It has ruined my life. I used to borrow money from people I knew to pay my debts, and my mother and I used to argue because I borrowed money from her account without getting her permission.”
Financial Counselling Australia has also helped launch a gambling support program aimed at those who endure many hardships as a result of problem gambling, such as an unwillingness to discuss expenses, domestic violence, and mental health issues. – Soheir Adas
Top photo of pokie machines from Amiga-Commodore’s Flickr photostream.