An exclusive report by The Guardian has revealed that a growing amount of young people in Australia are seeking help with gambling addictions they developed in their childhoods, including stories from people who started at just 10 years old.
The shocking report found that there was a 16 per cent increase in the amount of people younger than 24 seeking help from the service Gambling Help Online.
It also revealed that of the 2,136 people helped during the last 12 months, Victorians between 15 to 24-years-old made up over 600 of the people seeking help.
Despite the shocking nature of these high numbers, experts in public health have stated that they only represent a fraction of the total young people needing help.
Why is this happening?
In Australia, gambling advertising is everywhere. People who grew up here could probably name at least three different betting agencies from their advertising, even if they’ve never placed a bet themselves.
And online, it’s even worse.
Gambling ads are everywhere on the internet. Sometimes they play before the YouTube vids that children watch, and sometimes it’s within the content.
Ads for gambling play across all televised sports that young people watch, influencing young fans of all codes.
According to the Alliance For Gambling Reform, someone aged 13-years-old doesn’t know a world without gambling ads, and three in four kids think gambling is a normal part of sport.
Even video games play a big part, with gambling elements included in games that can act as a gateway for getting kids into spending money. This can be present in virtual loot-boxes which encourages kids to spend money, which psychologists say is “psychologically akin” to the feeling of gambling.
Gambling ads use all same the attention-grabbing techniques we know works across other media for getting the attention of young viewers, like bright colours, high pitched sounds, and enticing high-modal language.
And it works. If a kid is attracted to Mr Beast’s style of video editing, why wouldn’t the same techniques have the same impact on a gambling ad that plays between a Clash Of Clans level?
Additionally, growing up in Australia might mean cultural influences make gambling look more attractive or acceptable.
Taking odd bets with friends is just “good Aussie fun” right? And nobody would pull up a tipping comp between high school students on the NRL if it was just lunch money, would they?
In The Guardian’s article, a recovering young gambler states that, “by the time you’re 18, opening an online or app-based betting account is almost as easy as opening an email account.”
We are amongst the top of the world when it comes to gambling losses, losing $25 billion every year, and counting.
Australia is really good at losing, and that is not a flex, no matter how the gambling companies spin it.
What is being done about it?
The prominence of gambling advertising in Australia has recently caused an upheaval in the amount of groups making declarations of abstaining from it.
Among these groups are The Guardian, who have stated they will lose millions as a result of this decision.
You might have noticed that the gambling ads have had major changes recently due to the government cracking down. No longer will an ad end with the voiceover cheekily reminding you to “gamble responsibly” in a tone where you can practically hear them wink.
Ads now end with much stronger phrases to remind the viewer of the serious loss caused by gambling, such as the question: “What’s gambling really costing you?”
Gambling advertising regulation has also become a political issue, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton calling for ads to be banned an hour before and after televised sporting matches, with the Coalition introducing a bill to make the change.
Victims of gambling addictions, and anti-gambling bodies alike have called for the government to step in.