This week heralds an important change. What used to be Responsible Gambling Awareness Week has now become Gambling Harm Awareness Week. The symbolism of this shift is important. Talk about 'responsible gambling' has always been targeted at the consumer, all of the responsibility sat with the individual. Of course, this isn't entirely inappropriate. I am yet to meet someone recovering from a gambling addiction who wasn't prepared to take any responsibility for their own actions. However, as with most things, there's more than individual responsibility at play here. The way that gambling is advertised, promoted and accepted within our communities lays the foundation upon which individual actions take place. It's also very clear that the consequences of gambling harm are rarely restricted to an individual. So it's appropriate to have this discussion more widely and understand the ways that we may be setting people up to fail.
The Salvation Army's Gambler's Help Therapeutic Counsellor, Ravi Iyers, offered these thoughts for people who may be experiencing gambling harm, whether directly or as the result of someone else's actions:
The final few months of the year signal four big triggers for gambling.
The dawning of spring. Its not just a myth that with the end of winter in Melbourne sees a renewal of hope and optimism in the community. People start to embrace exercise, make resolutions, and plan for the warmer months. Betting agencies also see a spike in gambling activity.
The AFL grand final series is the perfect storm. Advertising increases rapidly as betting agencies try and cash in on the prospect of a 'sure bet'.
Following quickly on the heals of the grand final is the commencement of Spring Racing Carnival and the Melbourne Cup as the jewel in the gambling crown; a mecca for racing enthusiasts attracted by the lure of fun times associated with the competition of betting.
Finally, Christmas brings with it a double edged sword, a conclusion to a frantic year, time spent with loved ones, but also bringing up a range of feelings from anxiety and dread to jubilation. It is with the former that people often turn to alcohol, drugs and gambling in an effort to mask those unpleasant feelings.
The theme for this year's Gambling Awareness Week is TALK. SHARE. SUPPORT. This could not be more relevant to our times. To talk and share with someone close that gambling is calling the shots can be a breakthrough and loosen the hold that gambling has over you. Support is not a weakness; it takes courage and strength and is about you taking back control.
For more information about Gambling Harm Awareness Week, click here. To get help with gambling, go to www.gamblinghelponline.org.au or call 1800 858 858.