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Cup Day losses to soar with betting apps


'Poker Machines' by Chris JohnstonAustralians are expected to spend $60.6 million in betting on tomorrow’s Melbourne Cup, an increase of 7.5 per cent since last year according to market researchers IBISWorld. The majority of bets will still be placed in person at the TAB, but it is especially significant that mobile betting is increasing rapidly, with more Australians using smartphone betting apps.

It is no coincidence that more betting and higher losses coincide with the convenience of betting apps and other online means of placing bets. The traditional walk to the local TAB and the requirement of having to wait in the queue acted as a restraint on betting that amounted to pre-commitment. 

In the past, punters using the TAB needed to decide how much their day’s wager would be before they reached the end of the queue, for it is unlikely that they would be motivated to return to queue again to top up their betting. But online betting enables continual betting until the running of the race. It is similar to the way poker machines are used. Some gamblers will stop only after their bank account has been emptied.

Pre-commitment, along with $1 maximum bets, is the central platform of the compromise National Gambling Reform Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives last week. It forces gambling venues to offer voluntary – rather than mandatory – pre-commitment by the end of 2016. Anti-gambling campaigners are taking the view that voluntary pre-commitment is better than nothing.

Pre-commitment is the principle that allows us to control our impulsive behaviours. 500 years ago, it was used by the Jesuits’ founder St Ignatius Loyola when he formulated his Rules for Eating. His idea was that you plan what you’re going to eat for the next meal directly after the previous meal, or at another time when you’re not hungry. In this way, rationality rather than impulse controls your eating habits. 

Excessive consumption of anything – especially gambling ‘products’ – destroys human well-being. We all need a variety of supports to enable us to behave rationally and avoid the excess that ad hoc behaviour leads to. These days, that means not just encouragement from those around us, but the development of technology that is geared to enable us to act rationally and not designed to exploit our weaknesses.

Poker machines in particular promote gambling based on impulse rather than rational choice. That is why there must be laws to ensure that gamblers are able to make rational choices when they bet. Laws controlling online gambling are still in their infancy, but it is important that the governments include online gaming – especially smartphone apps – when they draft legislation to help problem gamblers. The principle of pre-commitment needs to be built into the functionality of gambling apps.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Michael Mullins, gambling, pre-commitment, poker machines



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Existing comments

Legislation is a tool that can be useful if it is well thought out, and wisely applied. But often it can have unforeseen unfortunate results. An extreme example was Prohibition in America.

Ultimately responsibility lies with the gambler, though raising awareness of gambling addiction can be helpful, as can adverse publicity, naming and shaming the exploiters.

There are many areas where people need to take responsibility for their actions and life style, and perhaps this should form part of school curriculum, now that religious influence seems to be in decline.

Robert Liddy | 05 November 2012  

So why do church welfare agencies accept government grants from gambling revenue?

AURELIUS | 05 November 2012  

Hmm. The Catholic Church is hardly 'against' gambling is it?

The nonsense surrounding one arm bandits, with futile pre commitments being the flavour of the moment rather miss the point.

Our economic system is based entirely on gambling, gambling forms a major source of income for governments, gambling is praised as a 'job provider', and those who earn their ill-gotten wealth from it, are seen as social and economic heros, like the young Packer is by the NSW government.

Clearly, the profits involved are far too great, and the tax on them is far too small.

Perhaps taxing gambling more is part of a solution?

janice wallace | 05 November 2012  

Is impulsive behaviour such a bad thing. Coming to someone's aid in an emergency, didaster etc. is usually impulsive. Impulses grow from the form our personality takes. Again is gambling ever a rational choice? And i never during queues at the TAB went through the thought processes the writer posits. As Robert Liddy indicates most of us must be responsible for our own actions. I have a number i regret (Not as it happens gambling) but I doubt if I could ever have been legislated out of them. Is impulse the new sin? Also I agree with Janice Wallace.

Anyhow is the Catholic Church against gambling? As I said to a friend yesterday they should align with what we call "fundamentalism:".

Brian Poidevin | 05 November 2012  

OK, it's fine to control and reduce problem gambling, but when it comes to the pokies, let's name then for what they are - computer programs with lights and bells programmed to take people;s money. Pokies are not gambling. In gambling people take risks based on the odds - like buying a ticket in a raffle or the lotto. People pool their money for a bit of fun knowing that most will lose but a few will win.
If we want to tackle the pokies problem - do what a group of lawyers tried to do a few years ago and expose the scam for what it is.

AURELIUS | 05 November 2012  

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