The dark side of the Melbourne Cup

melbourne cup
I grew up in a household with a dad that liked to have a bet on the races. He never lost big, but we were not a well-off household and mum often did without to make ends meet. So dad’s gambling was the source of many arguments and tension in the home. He seemed to be able to remember all his wins, which were far more infrequent than his losses.

Melbourne Cup Day drew him in, so it was a time of anxiety for me as the day approached, wondering if it would spark another shouting match at home.

With my own family experience it does not surprise me that there is a spike in the number of family violence assaults around event like the Melbourne Cup.

The Uniting Church has not opposed gambling outright, but past Synods have adopted resolutions calling on governments to take action to reduce the harm associated with gambling. While a long way behind pokies as a source of harm, people are still harmed by gambling on horse racing and sporting events.

Gambling is one of those products where the companies supplying the product drive up the amount people spend through their advertising and the inducements they offer. All sorts of special offers are made by the online betting companies. “Deposit $25 and get $75 bonus bets” one site shouts with its Melbourne Cup advertising. Of course, the fine print says conditions apply, such as you have to lose all the $75 before you can withdraw any money.

As Financial Counselling Australia exposed last year, the online betting companies break up the people who gamble into categories of duds, mugs and the A-list. Duds are people who bet a little and do not lose much. The A-list are heavy gamblers to be assigned ‘customer relationship managers’, which is a fancy way of saying someone employed to entice you to lose all you own and then some.

Fortunately, federal Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge has been driving reform with co-operations from state governments to rein in the online betting companies.

Synod’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) Unit has met with the Minister Tudge and his department to urge that the reforms be implemented to effectively reduce the harm online gambling is causing.

Online gambling companies are now banned for providing credit to entice people gambling to lose more than they can afford. They have promised more reforms to rein in inducements, but stopped short of agreeing to ban them outright. There will, however, be the ability for gamblers to set themselves limits on how much they are willing to lose.

In addition UCA Funds Management and the JIM Unit have been lobbying the major banks not to allow their credit cards to be used for online gambling. All four major banks are examining measures they might take to address the harm of allowing people gambling with money they don’t have. It remains to be seen if they will agree to any meaningful action.

Anyone wanting to write letters seeking to support gambling reform can contact the JIM Unit by calling (03) 9251 5265 or e-mail mark.zirnsak@victas.uca.org.au.

Image: Chris Phutully/Flickr

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