Human beings gamble. It’s part of our nature and probably one of the reasons we came out of the trees in the first place. Gambling is OK, if we didn’t gamble, we couldn’t win and the world would stagnate. Excessive gambling on the other hand is an illness every bit as bad and destructive as alcoholism. Australia has proportionately one of the highest number of gamblers in the world and it’s a huge problem in our society. Why then do we encourage, or even indoctrinate our children from the moment they can speak into becoming gamblers.
I never really noticed this fact until I became a parent myself and then it became almost impossible not to notice and I reminisced about how long it had been around me and realised it goes back to when I moved here from Canada in 1985.
When I moved here, one of the first things I discovered at Bondi beach (near where we lived) was that there was no restriction put on Children playing video games (in Montreal you had to be over 14). I also noticed these strange things called “skill testers” where you put money in and if you got lucky won some tickets that could be redeemed for prizes worth substantially less than any possible minimum investment needed to win them.
Thinking back, I am amazed at how gambling surrounds our children. Sure, they can’t go into the poker machine rooms at clubs (which are nevertheless in plain sight and hearing of them) but right there in the bistro is the inevitable skill tester where if you dump $5 into it you might win $0.20 worth of chocolate. And the contests, always the contests. One in 6 Mars Bars wins a free Mars Bar, McDonald’s Millions, Paddle Pop Lick-a Prize. All designed to separate children (or their beleaguered parents) from their money. All designed to continue the trend of developing our society of gamblers. All designed to ensure that a significant amount of money flows back into the businesses’ and government’s coffers. The main difference between adult gambling and children gambling is that it is legislated that adults have a chance of winning a prize greater than their investment whereas children get no such protection.
Then there is how to control it. Whenever a problem occurs in society, the immediately reaction of many is “The Government should make a law against it!!”. This has proven, unfortunately, to be the wrong solution. So frequently when the government tries to create a law to control a situation, it just makes it worse (the most glaring example I can think of being Prohibition in the US around the Depression years, and see my upcoming post regarding the debacle the occurred from banning incandescent light globes). What is needed is education. Education not just from schools (Why didn’t they learn that in school?!?! is another common – and pathetic – reaction to so many issues) but first and foremost in the home. There’s a great anti-alcoholism campaign where it shows how this illness propagates through generations (go get your old man a beer, son). This teaches parents the dangers of demonstrating and encouraging alcoholic behavior to children. I would like to see a similar campaign geared towards gambling addicts. Like alcoholics, they know they are miserable, they know they are sick and they know they are ruining their lives but they can’t stop. Why would anyone want to pass this same behavior down to their children? The problem is that gambling in our society is so insidious and pervasive that its almost impossible for them not to.