I’ve been banging on for a while now about the need for societal change with regards to gambling. While I strongly support regulatory changes such as poker machine reforms and a nationally run online gambling framework (just to name two), there is a very real need for a shift in attitudes towards gambling and gambling problems. That shift needs to be driven by all of us, and it needs to happen across society as a whole.
As long as the damage associated with gambling is glossed over, and it is seen as a harmless recreational pursuit (which for so many it isn’t) then there will always be problems. The various industries are extremely good as portraying their particular blends of gambling as exciting, or social, or good clean fun… that’s a perception that needs to challenged. People need to remember that there are alternatives.
I spoke recently with Susan Rennie about this very topic. Susan is involved with the North East Primary Care Partnership (NEPCP), a voluntary alliance of service providers in north east metropolitan Melbourne. Their vision, their priorities are “a community where all people are able to reach their health and wellbeing potential” and “creating an integrated service system that works to reduce preventable illness and delivers effective client-centred programs.”
One area that they have an interest in is poker machines and gambling, and more specifically, the way that they have become the default recreational option for many people, including social, senior and ethnic groups. In response, they published (in May this year) a guide that I think is absolutely brilliant.
The “Social Outings Guide: Don’t Gamble with your Group” publication aims to “provide groups that go on outings with appropriate non-gambling related options that can be undertaken at low to moderate cost”… and it does it brilliantly. The entire publication is aimed at giving people recreational options that don’t involve spending gambling. There are no-cost, low-cost and medium-cost activities, seasonal events, tours, and a comprehensive breakdown of the transport network and ticketing information. It’s an incredible guide.
There’s also four pages devoted to Pubs Without Pokies, a subject very close to my heart! There are a number of fine pokie-free establishments listed, such as the Stolberg Beer Cafe, the Great Northern Hotel and The Penny Black.
The guide has been massively successful, with the initial print run quickly being snapped up (although the PDF can be downloaded from the website), and it’s found a far wider audience than anyone expected. It’s also available in a range of languages, from Arabic to Greek to Somali to Tagalog to Vietnamese. This is truly a guide that belongs to the whole community.
I would love to see other Primary Care Partnerships in Victoria (there are 29 of them in total), and similar bodies around the country, following this model as a resource for their communities. It’s actions and publications such as this, created by and for the community, that can help bring about a fundamental shift in the public’s perception of the pokies.