By Ern Meharry
In the mid-1950s there were only two places on the planet that had poker machines, Las Vegas and NSW.
You could be forgiven for thinking you were on a different planet now when you look at the explosion of gaming machines worldwide, especially in Australia.
The misery and social problems caused by gaming machines is well documented and I do not intend to delve further into that side of things, but there are many people and groups pushing back against the poker machine industry.
Recently we have seen:
●Agitation by a group within the RSL trying to force the organisation to concentrate on its core purpose of looking after veterans and their families instead of the pokie dens many RSL clubs have degenerated into.
●Macquarie Bank banning the use of its credit cards for gambling.
●Shareholder activist groups pressuring Coles and Woolies to divest from gaming machines.
●The Tasmanian ALP taking a policy of removing pokies from the state, despite pressure from the federal ALP to drop the policy. (Unfortunately the massive campaign waged and apparently funded by Clubs NSW had the ALP defeated at that state election).
●Nine AFL clubs getting out of gaming with more to follow, leaving a small band of (mostly) Melbourne-based clubs being the only ones still running pokie venues.
If the prevalence of pokies does not disturb you too much, surely the incessant advertising of sports betting at our iconic MCG and the (not-so-iconic) Docklands, combined with the constant advertising blitz of these same companies during the broadcast of football games, should.
Sports programs such as The Front Bar having segments totally devoted to the odds on a particular outcome normalise this behaviour in the eyes of vulnerable people (especially the young).
It is particularly disturbing when you hear young children talking about the odds of a win by their team or the odds of their favourite player kicking the first goal, instead of how well the team or player will play.
That brings me to the AFL and specifically the recent imposition of a fine and lengthly suspension of young Collingwood footballer Jaidyn Stephenson for placing a $36 bet on himself and his teammates.
The sheer hypocrisy of the AFL in accepting millions of dollars from online betting companies when imposing this ban on a young footballer who has quite likely been coerced into sports betting from a young age due to this advertising exposure is breathtaking.
Even better was the BetEasy ad on the AFL’s website that accompanied the announcement of Jaidyn’s penalty. That’s gold.
And let’s not let Channel 7 off the hook here.
At a recent match at Kardinia Park (which has thankfully had all gambling advertising removed) between Geelong and Adelaide, viewers were bombarded at each quarter ad break by the dude sitting on two basketballs uttering words that were unintelligible and meaningless in an attempt to coerce people to their betting site.
At the end of the game in post-match interviews they spoke to a person discussing responsible gambling. Ironic, isn’t it?
I understand the AFL’s deal with BetEasy is up for renewal.
The AFL, who have been (rightly) at the forefront of campaigns against racism, homophobia and drugs, should take a leaf out of the English Premier League’s book (who severed ties with Ladbrokes) and take a stand on gambling as well.
Also the Federal Government should impose bans on gambling advertising similar to that other health hazard that was banned years ago, tobacco.
Ern Meharry writes a regular blog at www.sheppnews.com.au/@ernestos-manifesto