A couple of weeks ago I was doing my usual morning lap of the quad with my usual rant – ‘No bags left in the quad! Bell’s gone, come on, chop chop, let’s get to class!’ – a student asked me whether I was going to watch the footy match between Brisbane and Melbourne.
As he and I are both keen Melbourne supporters, I replied, ‘of course!’ and as I was heading back to my office, he asked who I thought was going to kick the first goal. With Kosi Pickett in full memory from his brilliant winning goal the week before, I said ‘Kosi’ and strode off. The following Monday when I bumped into this particular student, he thanked me for this info and said it was a cracking multi!
Now, if you had have asked me what a multi was 12 to 18 months ago, I couldn’t tell you. But even now, through the fanatical exposure of gambling ads on TV, I very well knew what he was saying. I was quite startled with the sophistication of gambling the students know and conduct regularly.
Never before has gambling been so intertwined with our day-to-day lives. Loot boxes in video games are not regulated as a form of gambling in Australia, have been in countries such as Belgium and Netherlands.
‘Loot boxes, treasure chests or mystery boxes are items that players purchase within a game. The content of these boxes is unknown before purchase, but players are generally hoping for items or rewards such as weapons, accessories or tokens. Loot boxes can be earned through skilful play or purchased with real world money.’ – Be Ahead of the Game, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation beaheadofthegame.com.au
Loot Boxes in games for children increased from 5.3% in 2010 to 71.2% in 2019. So how, might you ask, is this gambling? Well, loot boxes are bought with money, there is a winning element of chance, the prizes vary greatly, they can be exchanged for cash or gambled as currency, and it can be addictive. These are tell-tale signs of gambling to me.
Then let’s add the absolutely relentless and I think ghastly state of gambling and sport.
Now, as want-to-be historian (but only history teacher), in my opinion, banning gambling would only bring a period like the prohibition era in America where underworld crime became crippling. I do, however, condemn the AFL and sporting bodies who are blatantly exposing our children to a feast of gambling ads. As far back as 2016, gambling ads on Australian free-to-air average 374 ads per day (and I am absolutely sure the numbers would be double or even higher today). The AFL is leading the way and the advertisements are being played in the hours of children being awake. Gambling among school students, although a relatively new study, is on the rise. In 2016 it was estimated around $3 million was spent by students on gambling each year. Imagine now in 2022 what that number is.
What I find remarkable is the blatant endorsement from major shows. The humorous and entertaining show the Front Bar not only promotes drinking during the entire program, it has a special segment at the end called Mick’s Multi where random events are given kudos to punt on. On 5 September, the Age reported that Australians had lost over $11.4 billion on the poker machines, with Victoria losing as much as $2.2 billion. In all facets of gambling, the profits these companies are making are enormous and the odds certainly are against people who gamble.
During our Senior School Community Day in Term 2, we were fortunate to have a guest speaker from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to share with us the dangers and facts about gambling. In mathematics classes I know students study probability which educates them on their chances with various odds. Recently during our Enrichment Week, a number of students took part in the Videos for Change project which involved creating mini videos about important topics. Here is an interesting and useful video created by a group of Year 10s on gambling:
As parents and adult role models, it is our responsibility to model healthy behaviours for the sake of our kids’ development. We also need to watch out for gambling addiction in our children (and other loved ones around us), start the conversation and make sure they are aware of impact of their actions. With seemingly innocent purchases in video games, combined with the influx of gambling ads over the last few years, anyone can fall victim to the billion-dollar profits of the gambling industry.
Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Wellbeing