I must say that I took with a grain of a salt the anecdote of ubiquitous bookmaker Tom Waterhouse apparently being sought out for autographs by youngsters. Had gambling really become so omnipresent in Australian society? And so, I was a little shocked to overhear several lads, of 10 at the oldest on the train, evidently off on a school holiday excursion yesterday discussing how a wager had been proposed amongst them as to whether or not they would make the train. The amount in question, $3.50 to be precise. I note this because whilst people making small wagers, often with not intent of payment being relatively normal, such a specific amount can only be a product of the constant flaunting of odds during sports by a motley crew of immoral (or perhaps amoral) bookies. These unscrupulous individuals, and the various media outlets happy to take their money, are clearly having a detrimental role in society. Just as twenty or thirty years ago advertising hoardings at sporting grounds encouraged us to “have a Winfield” or some other tobacco product, we now have the equally pervasive, seemingly constant cacophony of those encouraging us to bet. In my view, this is just as damaging to society. The impact of problem gambling should be viewed in the same way as tobacco smoking, a cost to society so that a small few can make a profit.
It is time, then, for our leaders to say enough is enough. Self regulation has clearly failed, the lure of the almighty dollar too great. Regulating pokies is one thing; at least in that case there is an element of choice in going to a venue. But it is simply unacceptable for such as potentially harmful practice to become a cultural norm by being rammed down our throats every time we wish to enjoy a game of football or cricket. The time for government to act is now.