the age’s “bet regret” hypocrisy

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF) has a new campaign called BetRegret. The idea is that “BetRegret” is the feeling you get when you’ve spent too much on gambling.

I have to say I’m not sold on this. As a former poker machine addict, this seems to me like an attempt at a cute, catchy phrase that doesn’t really sum up the complexity or the depth of recrimination and self-loathing that gambling to excess brings about.

And the VRGF is aligned with the Victorian government, so their aims are inevitably influenced by that. As chief executive Serge Sando says: “Our message is not about stopping gambling, it’s about being aware of how much you’re gambling and putting in place some measures to reduce that risk and ensure gambling remains fun.”

Which is all well and good… but sometimes it HAS to be about stopping gambling. That’s a simple fact that has to be recognised.

But hey, at least they’re trying. “BetRegret” may be as flawed as the stupid “Gamble Responsibly” messages but it’s something.

The problem with a campaign like this is, it doesn’t stand a chance. Take The Age, for example.

Eight days ago it was the 30th of October. The Melbourne Cup was only days away, and media hype over the Spring Racing Carnival was reaching fever pitch. On that day, The Age looked like this:

The Age and SportsBet

Wall-to-wall advertising for SportsBet.

Yet today, with the Melbourne Cup done and dusted and millions of dollars in bets already wagered, The Age looks like this:

The Age and BetRegret

I’d suggest that maybe The Age is experiencing some BetRegret of their own… except that even while their front page runs these ads, their sports section still looks like this:

The Age and Ladbrokes

I’d suggest it’s The Age that has a problem.

9th November – UPDATED TO ADD:

And it’s not only The Age doing this. Today, 2 days after I published this article and the day after the Spring Racing Carnival concluded, The Herald Sun also joined the BetRegret party.

The Age and BetRegret

This, despite the fact that their racing section is sponsored by the TAB, and despite the fact that the paper ran ads for Bet365 and the TAB throughout the carnival.

Notice that neither publication aired a BetRegret ad until carnival was over, or nearly so.

Not good enough.

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4 Responses

  1. Kate Sommerville says:

    The VRGF Bet Regret campaign is about trying to reach the ‘at risk’ group of gamblers – those people at risk of serious harm developing. It’s trying to get people to think before they reach rock bottom. It’s a really hard point to intervene successfully but modelling shows there are about 105,000 people in this group. Personally, I think there are probably more.

    The people in the ads are real gamblers.

    I agree with you that the problem is with “The Age” and its placement of the ads. Bizarre ethical contradictions.

  2. Kate, I realise that it’s the at-risk gamblers who are the target of the campaign… and yes, I may not be the best person to judge such a campaign. I do have my doubts but if it works then I’d be the last person to tell them to shut the campaign down.

    It’s just a shame that this campaign, and all the other campaigns they run, steadfastly refuses to recommend “not gambling” as an option.

  3. Tim Falkiner says:

    The term is disparaging to problem gamblers. Problem gamblers were offended by “Break Even” and this is worse. The Government seems to think problem gambling is about money management issues.

  4. Kate Sommerville says:

    Tom, one day society will get to the stage of being able to say more publicly that the machines themselves (the pokies) are quite dangerous and that they are designed to entrap.

    The way I personally understand this is that the repetitive sensory stimulation of the machines alters dopamine activity in the brain and this is responsible for the urge or the compulsion. It can very subtle or absolutely compelling. And people don’t know it is happening. Once a person is caught up in that cycle they inevitably return to the machines for the same impact. Everyone is different of course, and this engagement with the machines happens in unique social and individual contexts. Once this cycle begins it’s very hard to stop without help and without knowledge,

    Not everyone has the framework to understand the danger of the machines. How best to explain it? Someone hooked into the cycle may not want to understand it, and some people just don’t believe it.

    So how to get the message over is a challenge.

    If campaigns like ‘Bet Regret’ can a strike a chord in people at risk so that they do feel inspired to talk to someone about their gambling that’s a good thing – whether it be pokies or something else, At the moment most people don’t seek help until they are in dire trouble.

    I think we need to a lot more thinking about the messages given out about gambling, which you are trying to do through your ad campaign, but maybe also about some of the risks. Remember that ad about the woman digging holes in the park, looking for the elusive jackpot? That seemed really effective to me because it so encapsulates the hopelessness of gambling but I don’t know effective it was in challenging people to seek help.

    Maybe other ways of reaching people need to be explored. Some of this work is happening now through the Foundation’s other trial prevention programs. Some of those programs are quite innovative and exciting.

    Still, the long term answer, in my view, still lies in containing the gambling industry –

    * Proving machine risk issues and legislating to modify these.
    * Instituting maximum bets of $1.00 to decrease harm occurring through financial losses.
    * A long term plan to limit the availability of venues and machines.
    * Encouraging the community to lessen dependence on gambling revenue

    Thanks for all the work you do, by the way. You have become one of most dependable advocates 🙂

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