Letter to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – Promoting gambling in children.

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Please send this letter or a revised version of it to the Premier of Victoria –

Honourable Daniel Andrews at:

Email: daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au

or

send a hard copy letter to his office at:

 

Office of the Premier

1 Treasury Place

Melbourne, Victoria

Australia, 3002

 

Dear honourable premier,

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding a decision recently made by racing minister Martin Pakula to jointly fund a package worth over $126,000 in the form of an Easter School Holidays Kids Program that is being held at ten racing venues across Victoria and being hosted by Greyhound Racing Victoria.

In essence, this program is promoting gambling to children. It is also promoting exposure of animal harm and animal cruelty to children. Consider the fact that out of 231 race meetings in Vic, in the first 10 weeks of 2017, only 11 were free from injury or death.

 

Exposure to Animal Cruelty

Research demonstrates the powerful role of exposure to cruelty in the development of aggressive behavior. Moreover, environments that are sympathetic to such behaviours promote the development of beliefs that such behaviours are normal [1, 2].

A number of studies investigating the relationship between children’s witnessing of animal cruelty and children’s engagement in animal cruelty have shown that children and adolescents who have witnessed animal cruelty are significantly more likely to believe that such behavior is normal and are more likely to engage in it themselves [3, 4].

Of concern, research has consistently shown that deliberate animal cruelty or acceptance of animal harm generalises to aggression and violence against humans. It is noteworthy that animal cruelty in children has been identified as one of the earliest indicators of what are referred to externalizing disorders, including Conduct Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder, as well as a being predictor of the development of more severe aggression [5, 6].

 

Gambling

Whilst Electronic Gaming Machines constitute the most prevalent form of gambling in Australia, racing is the second largest form of gambling. Gambling in Australia is big business that predominantly benefits the big end of town. In their 2014 piece, Markham and Young state “The growth of ‘Big Gambling’ in Australia is an ongoing class project. It is one that has transferred, with industrial efficiency, billions of dollars from the pay packets of the working classes to the bank accounts of a superrich elite.” [7].

Markham and Young argue that a viable gambling industry without the extensive exploitation of the Australian working class is unimaginable since the data show that gambling problems are concentrated amongst the poorest social groups in Australia, and gambling revenue largely depends on problem gamblers [7].

Of particular importance regarding the argument that racing creates jobs and wealth for Victoria, the evidence is the converse. The data on gambling indicate that gambling industries do not create “new jobs”. Rather, they simply divert employment from other sectors and they don’t create new wealth either. Rather, they transfer wealth from poor to rich. Moreover, gambling likely reduces economic activity by diverting gamblers away from productive labor [7].

 

Problem Gamblers

The impact of problem gambling in Australia is huge and it is not confined to poker machines. According to the Productivity Commission, as many as 170,000 Australian adults face significant gambling problems and a further 350,000 are vulnerable. Of concern, for every addicted gambler, there are 10 more people who are seriously affected. This includes families, friends and employers. And if that is not bad enough, according to the Commission, 60% of problem gamblers who have sought counseling, have spoken of suicide. As many as 400 suicides each year can be attributed to addictive gambling [8].

According to Reverend Tim Costello, sports betting and betting online have exploded and are in dire need of regulation [9].

 

The Victorian Gambling Study

In 2014, a report on the findings of the Victorian Gambling Study was published [10]. This study examined gambling and health longitudinally in Victoria between 2008 and 2012 and represents the largest study of its kind in Australia.

One of its main findings includes that problem gamblers and low- and moderate-risk gamblers have higher gambling participation rates in four key activities: 91% of problem gamblers gamble on Electronic Gaming Machines, 34% bet on races, 25% gamble on table games and 16% bet on sports. Whilst Electronic Gaming Machines are clearly the greatest attraction for problem gamblers, betting on racing (greyhound and horse) is the second largest group of gambling activity with a notable percentage (34%) of problem gamblers participating.

 

Psychological Distress and Problem Gambling

It is a known fact that the greyhound racing industry destroys thousands upon thousands of animal lives. It is also clear that it significantly contributes to the psychological distress and financial ruin of thousands upon thousands of Australian humans, most of whom are already battling in our society [7 – 10].

A 2015 Australian Psychological Society survey into Stress and wellbeing, reported a strong association between gambling and psychological distress including severe anxiety and depression. Governments themselves acknowledged this relationship [11].

 

Conclusions

In a 2015 episode of The Drum TV, it was reported that in Australia, after inflation, total gambling expenditure per head grew from $577 in 1986-87 to $1,179 in 2011-12. This represents total gambling losses of $20.5 billion in 2011-12, and is predominantly concentrated in the poorest sectors of society [12].

It needs to be asked therefore why do governments refuse to reduce the size of this harmful industry?

Unfortunately, it seems that governments have become dependent on gambling revenue and have lost sight of the problems endemic to gambling for Australian society. The evidence points to a desperate need to reduce gambling access and to make it less attractive so that people vulnerable to this societal vice are not so easily seduced. One way to begin is by shutting down what is the most dangerous and disgusting of all of these gambling activities.

If governments were to shutdown greyhound racing they would at once demonstrate that they are able to govern in line with the values of the society which they represent and, most importantly of all they would demonstrate that they actually care about the wellbeing of their constituents, particularly the most vulnerable members of society – human and animal.

Minister Pakula’s decision to promote exposure to gambling and animal cruelty in children can only be considered to be entirely irresponsible and must taken as evidence that he is not fit to serve the people of Victoria. He must step down.

Yours Sincerely,

Xxxxxxx

References

1.Anderson, C.A. (2002). Aggression. (p. 68-78). In E. Borgatta & R. Montgomery (Eds). The Encyclopedia of Sociology. (2nd Ed.), New York: MacMillan.

2. Huesmann, L. (1988). An information processing model for the development of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 14, 13-24.

3. Gullone, E. (2012). Animal cruelty, Antisocial Behaviour and Aggression: More than a link. Palgrave Macmillan Ltd., Hampshire.

4. Thompson, K.L., & Gullone, E. (2006). An investigation into the association between the witnessing of animal abuse and adolescents’ behavior toward animals. Society and Animals, 14, 223-243.

5. Frick, P. J., Lahey, B. B., Loeber, R., Tannenbaum, L., & et al. (1993). Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: A meta-analytic review of factor analyses and cross-validation in a clinic sample. Clinical Psychology Review, 13, 319-340.

6. Luk, E. S., Staiger, P. K., Wong, L., & Mathai, J. (1999). Children who are cruel to animals: A revisit. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 33, 29-36.

7. Markham, F., & Young, M. (March, 2014). Who winds from ‘Big Gambling’ in Australia? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/who-wins-from-big-gambling-in-australia-22930

8. Maslen, G. (2012). Waiting for the wins. http://www.aph.gov.au/sitecore/content/Home/About_Parliament/House_of_Represtentatives/About_the_House_Magazine/Previous/ATH45/waiting

9. Horn, J. (2011). Caught in the game. The Monthly: Australian Politics, Society, & Culture. https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2011/november/1320384446/jonathan-horn/caught-game

10. The Victorian Gambling Study: A longitudinal study of gambling and health in Victoria 2008-2012. http://www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/10016/ALONGITUDINAL-STUDY-OF-GAMBLING-AND-HEALTH-IN-VICTORIA-20082012.pdf

11. Stress and Wellbeing report 2015 https://www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/information-andresources/whats-new/stress-and-wellbeing-report-2015

12. Gambling pays off….for Australian governments. The Drum TV 2015.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-17/steketee-gambling-pays-off-for-australiangovernments/6625170

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