Gambling: harmless fun or an addiction?

Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex - MelbourneMost of us, from time to time, spend money gambling. After all, a day at the races, is always a bit of fun. Being part of a syndicate in the lottery is exciting. And even having trying your luck at the casino can be thrilling. But for some people gambling is problematic.

 

Why do people gamble?

There are many reasons why people gamble, whether it be on a sports game or purchasing a lottery ticket. Some do it for fun, others for excitement, the thrill of winning or simply to be social. Some people only bet once or twice a year, and some make it a weekly event. However, sometimes gambling for entertainment can take a sinister turn, and become an addictive habit.

Statistics show that as many as 500,000 Australians either have problems gambling or are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. Furthermore, one problem gambler affects between five and 10 other people. This equates to a possible 5 million Australians who are affected by gambling.

 

What do people gamble on?

Around two thirds of Australians gamble. In total, Australians spend around $20 billion annually on all forms of gambling. Statistics show the average Australian spends around $1641 each year gambling, while the average poker machine player spends $2,407 each year.

At risk or problem gamblers spend a whopping $11,500 each year on poker machines, while more than half of Australians buy lottery tickets or ‘scratchies’.

All forms of gambling are on the downward trend, except for two — racing and sports betting.

Sports betting has doubled in recent years with 1 in 7 Australians gambling on sports. This has coincided with extensive promotion of sports betting throughout the media.

 

Clues that gambling may be a problem

People who have a problem with gambling exhibit many signs. If you are concerned that someone close to you is gambling, keep an eye out for some of the following clues:

Financial clues

  • Unexplained debt or borrowing
  • Secrecy around money
  • Money/assets disappearing
  • Unpaid bills/disconnection notices/lack of food in the house
  • Missing financial statements and secret bank accounts/loans/credit cards

Emotional clues

  • Moodiness, unexplained anger or depression
  • Violence
  • Becoming withdrawn from family and friends

Behavioural clues

  • Avoiding social events
  • Skipping work or study to gamble
  • Secretiveness about activities
  • Defensive when questioned
  • Disappearing for amounts of time that cannot be accounted for
  • No time for everyday activities
  • Overuse of sick days and days off
  • Taking unusual amounts of time for tasks or coming home from work late.

 

Is gambling a problem for you?

According to Gambler’s Help, you may have a problem with gambling, if you:

  • Gamble to avoid dealing with problems or disappointments
  • Skip work or study to gamble
  • Spend more time gambling than with family and friends
  • Think about gambling every day
  • Gamble to win money, not just for fun
  • Gamble to win back money lost by gambling
  • Feel depressed because of gambling
  • Lie or keep secrets about gambling
  • Borrow money to gamble
  • Argue with family and friends about gambling or to have an excuse to go out and gamble
  • Gamble for longer periods of time than originally planned
  • Gamble until every dollar is gone
  • Lose sleep due to thinking about gambling
  • Don’t pay bills and use the money for gambling instead
  • Try to stop gambling, but can’t.
  • Become moody when trying to stop or cut down on gambling
  • Try to increase the excitement of gambling by placing bigger bets
  • Break the law to get money to gamble.

 

Help is available

Problem gambling can destroy lives. It can ruin relationships, cost you your marriage, and your job. However, help is available.

If gambling is affecting your life or the life of someone close to you, seek the support of a qualified counsellor who specialises in gambling support, for gamblers and those around them.

Types of support available may include:

  • Telephone help
  • Online help
  • Face-to-face
  • Online self-help tools
  • Financial counselling.

Making a decision to change your gambling behaviour can be scary, but it is possible to get it under control.

For further information, contact the Gambler’s Help Line on 1800 858 858 or visit www.gamblinghelponline.org.au

 

References:

About the House Magazine, August 2012, Waiting for the Wins, Australian Government Publication

Problem Gambling, http://www.problemgambling.gov.au/

Australian Institute of Family Studies, Sports betting on the rise, 26 November 2014, https://aifs.gov.au/media-releases/sports-betting-rise

Gambler’s Help, http://www.gamblershelp.com.au/

Gambling Help Online, http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/

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Your most important organ

brainInternational Brain Awareness Week (BAW) will be held from 10-16th March this year. It is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits from brain research.

Amazingly, there are over 1,000 diseases and disorders of the brain and most of them do not have a cure. Statistics indicate that more than 25 per cent of the population will experience a brain disorder sometime in their lifetime.

So because it’s Brain Awareness Week, and your brain is really your most important organ, here are our top tips on keeping your brain in tip top shape.

  • Keep your brain active —Engage in activities that will stimulate your brain. Experts recommend doing something different to what you normally do.
  • Eat nourishing foods — Our brains need optimal nutrition to keep them functioning at their best. Protein and omega-3 fats are particularly important for growing, developing brains. Carbohydrates provide the main energy source for your brain.
  • Be active — One research study showed that people who exercise later in life may better protect their brain from age-related changes. Another showed that being active may cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 33 per cent.
  • Protect your brain — Always wear a seat belt when in a vehicle, a sports safety helmet when appropriate and a bike helmet when riding any kind of bike. Brain injury can result in death or permanent disability.
  • Manage stress — Evidence shows that stress can affect the brain. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate, which increase the risk of stroke, and depression can affect memory and brain metabolism.
  • Get enough shut-eye — Sleep plays an important role in repairing tissues and boosting the immune system. REM sleep helps us consolidate information learned during the day. Lack of sleep can affect your memory and concentration levels.
  • Have regular health checks — Other health problems such as diabetes and high cholesterol increase your risk of stroke. If you have suffered a series of mini-strokes, you are at higher risk of dementia. So have regular check-ups with your GP.
  • Give up smoking and drugs — Smoking has been shown to damage memory, learning and reasoning abilities. Similarly, using illicit drugs can cause problems with movements and responses as well as with memory.

If you notice any changes to the way you move or speak, or have problems swallowing, experience issues with your memory, moods or vision, please visit your doctor. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to make sure.

And if you would like to make a donation to the wonderful work the Brain Foundation is doing, please visit their website .

For further information visit The Brain Foundation