This is something of a community service announcement… today marks the start of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week 2011. The purpose of RGAW is to remind everyone that if they choose to gamble, then they should do so responsibly, and not let it take over their lives.
RGAW is being held in a number of states across Australia; here in Victoria where I live, the event is entering its sixth year. It’s actually something of a big deal, given that it represents a partnership (for the week, at least) between the Victorian State Government and a range of participants including the DOJ, the VLGA, the VCGR, the RGAC, Gambler’s Help, the Salvation Army and the Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce on one hand, and Tabcorp, Tatts, Crown, ClubsVictoria, ALH and the AHA on the other.
There has been some criticism levelled at RGAW in the past, along the lines of how it’s a way for the industry to be seen as doing something about problem gambling while actually not doing very much at all. The message of “gambling responsibly” has also come under fire; there are many people who have problems with their gambling, and they shouldn’t be encouraged to gamble responsibly… instead, they should be refraining from gambling at all.
I have to say I understand this point of view. I’m of the opinion that if you have a problem with one or more forms of gambling, then you should stay away from them. But I don’t oppose gambling as an activity in and of itself, and as such I do support the notion that anyone who does choose to gamble, should do so responsibly.
I stress the word choose, because again, for many people it’s not a choice. That’s when it has become a problem, an addiction, and should be treated as such.
On the flip side, RGAW should also be as much about the industry as it is about the individual. Responsibility works both ways; the gambling industry has a strong responsibility to ensure that the product they promote and profit from is operated in a responsible fashion. Sadly, in many cases I believe this is not happening. Even though most of this country’s gambling industry participants have aligned themselves with RGAW, this does not make them responsible by default. They need to do more than pay lip-service to the concept of responsible gambling.
One of the paradoxes of RGAW is that it is supported by industry elements such as ClubsVictoria and the AHA… yet these organisations have opposed the current proposed poker machine reforms concerning pre-commitment. One of the reasons they give for opposing the reforms is that they encourage problem gamblers to gamble within the restrictions of pre-commitment… which is incorrect. Yet they support a week-long event committed to promoting responsible gambling, which is exactly what the reforms are designed to encourage.
Ultimately, I support the concept of RGAW. I believe that anything that highlights the dangers of addictive gambling, the need for the industry to also act responsibly, and raises public awareness of the issues involved, is a good thing. I’m something of an optimist, I like to believe that events such as this can actually make a difference, rather than just making some noise and looking pretty.
The Responsible Gambling Advocacy Centre (RGAC) is presenting two events during RGAW 2011. Here are the details, and links to their site.
Thursday 26 May, 2011, 1-2.30pm
Occasional Discussion Series: Risk, Youth and Responsible Gambling: the dilemmas of choice
Presented by Dr Samantha Thomas, Monash University
Friday 27 May, 2011, 1-3.00pm
Panel Event: What are the odds? Sport and responsible gambling
featuring RGAW Ambassadors and media commentators Angela Pippos and David Schwarz, with Greg Baum (The Age) and Professor Colin McLeod (Monash University).