Three decades ago a friend Akram and I put a bet on the middling stayer, Savage Toss, to form a trifecta in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. We won and I bought a fridge. Having studied the form we were thrilled. In the weeks thereafter I returned the amount and more to the TAB. Hello, gambling.
I have taken doses of gambling’s hope, thrill and inevitable loss, the urge to double down and the cold of a repeat loser’s wintry winds. I have also seen, more than a generation ago, the knock-on family effects of gambling, hocked furniture and broken trust.
Punters’ losses into Hawthorn’s poker machines last financial year totalled $24 million.Credit:Scott Barbour
Gambling leaves me with mixed feelings. It’s fun and it has had a certain place in Australia, historically and nostalgically, and is present now in evolving ways, here and worldwide. But pokie gambling scares me, with its big-business scale and skilful tactics that engage and entrap vulnerable people. The social and mental health impacts on problem gamblers and their families are distressing.
I am a paid-up member of the Hawthorn Football Club, former player and proud life member. Gambling revenue for my club from poker machines is the highest of Victorian AFL clubs that continue to profit from them. Punters’ losses in 2018-19 into our 165 machines were more than $24 million. My club’s reliance on gaming revenue has never sat well with me and I have raised concerns with the club, including at the recent AGM.