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Gambling woes

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Australia gambles the most $ on sport per capita in the world.

Online sports punters in this country lost $264 million in 2006. This year it will be $611million.

$300 million is bet on the AFL alone. This figure is increasing; at approximately the same rate as Andrew Demetriou’s ego…

Not only is a great deal of our time, focus and energy going into the world of sport, but our hard earner dollars are heading there as well; more so than any other nation on God’s green earth, it seems.

The Brownlow Medal

Last year, I settled in to watch the AFL Brownlow Medal (player of the year) with some mates. It’s an event where you can get odds on the winning player before the ball has even been bounced in Round 1, 6 months earlier.

As we watched, every ad break contained a cross to a betting agency providing live odds. I felt bad for those people for whom gambling is an addiction. No longer is it enough just to avoid the venues where sport is played or the local TAB. Now, all you need is a tv and/or an internet link.

Fortunately, in May, betting agencies and television networks were given 12 months by the Australian government to stop broadcasting updated betting odds during live broadcasts of sporting events, or risk having legislation brought in to ban it. Yet how much damage has already been done?

‘Falling marriage rates hurting children: report’

This topic has come to light today for me because front page news yet again proclaims another betting ‘scandal’ – the second I’ve seen in as many days and about the 5th or so I’ve been aware of this year; and that’s without me actively following sport.

In order to write this and make sure I got my facts right, I clicked away from a story on a report regarding the damage to children done due to our increasingly fragmented family unit. (Surely this isn’t ground-breaking news for anyone. You don’t need to work in education for 10 years to know the personal and greater stories of the intense damage done by individuals inabilities to commit over the long term and work through the issues that are going to arise in married life; regardless of who you are. But still, I wanted some specific details and figures. Big red herring – sorry…)

Determined, I clicked onto this other big story, where apparently some ‘inside news’ saw the current coach of St Kilda firm heavily as the coach of Melbourne next year. How did this happen? Investigations will take place. Earlier this week it came to light that a lot of money came in for Nathan Bock, a backline player for the Gold Coast Suns, to kick the first goal of the game. And yes, you can bet on this.

Last week it was an assistant coach who placed a bet ‘on behalf of a friend’ on an AFL game. Although it wasn’t a game his team was involved in, his career may be in jeopardy. Earlier this year, Collingwood player Heath Shaw was fined $20,000 and suspended 8 weeks for using inside information to bet that his captain, Nick Maxwell, a regular in the backline, would kick the first goal. For his part in passing on the information, Maxwell was fined $10,000 after it came out that three of his family members placed similar bets. For the record, the total sum of Shaw’s bet … $10.

Fortunately, I was on my sporting ban by the time of these occurrences. I can only imagine it would have been ‘major news’. (So I had to do post-dated research for this piece. Googling ‘Dangers of betting on sports in Australia’ simply brought up a host of online betting sites!)

Personal experience

Having never had a betting account, I don’t have too much experience to draw upon, though I have placed bets before, some of them for not insignificant amounts. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. I won the few relatively big bets I made and then stopped myself as I realised the alluring obsession that was at my fingertips. It is compelling. But at some stage, there’ll be a ‘sure thing’ that doesn’t work out, for whatever reason. What will I do then??

I’ve even scaled back my involvement in a fantasy AFL betting competition that I’m in. To step away completely would remove myself from a fun connection with a group of mates. (An ironic aside – I have, for the last 2 days, been in the lead in this comp. This will not last. For all my knowledge about this sport, I have never ended the season with more $ than what I began with; a helpful internal warning for any real-life betting behaviour that beckons!)

Don’t kid yourself

There are many arguments made about why AFL (or whichever sport is your first love) is oblivious to the factors which permeate the hearts and minds of players worldwide, causing them to try to cash in the potential to leverage a particular outcome – ‘One player can only make so much of a difference in a game with 36 people on the field’, ‘They would be ostracised by the community and their peers if it ever came out,’ ‘It just wouldn’t happen in Australia.’ For those Melbournians making the same arguments about (London) riots, you only have to look to Cronulla.

There is an undeniable possibility to severely mess with the integrity of a game or an outcome. Money is to be made from this. It. Will. Happen.

Disgraced baseball legend Pete Rose

Bigger problems

While the recent betting incidents may seem insignificant in light of their amounts, it does point towards the temptation that betting poses to many. For well-paid footballers, there’s obviously still a rush in ‘being in the know’ and winning a few dollars; yet the lure of match-fixing can never be too far away.

For the average schmo, you can be fooled into thinking you have the inside track on something, that the odds makers have ‘got it wrong’ and you can make a killing. Unfortunately, too many are getting involved, and they’re betting more than $10. Incomes can be lost. Relationships damaged; permanently.

For others, it simply provides a distraction. Neither the dollar amounts nor the regularity are in and of themselves an issue. The constant, mental energy expended on pointless number-crunching and analysis, however, takes time away from what is important – family, friends, faith, community, health and fitness…

Now, back to that report on kids and families.

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About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

5 responses »

  1. I remember about 5 years ago the Herald-Sun featured ex-Sydney Swans player Darryn Creswell on the front page with an article about how he had come to ruin due to gambling. I found it ironic that on page 5 an ad for sports gambling and the odds for that days AFL games were plastered along the base of the page.

    Two years ago, David Schwarz, ex-player of the Melbourne football club spoke at length on the Triple-M Friday night pre game show about the evils of gambling which had nearly ruined his life. Only 20 minutes after his segment the station crossed to live betting odds from a bookie and continued to update them during the game.

    Both situations seem ironically stupid. You could say ‘yeah but its the Herald-Sun and Triple M’. But look at the numbers, clearly Joe Public is ironically stupid too and these moronic bastions of Victorian media know all too well just who Joe Public is and what makes him tick.

    As someone who has just assisted in the sale of an immediate family members house due to gambling issues, I personally take great issue with the normalisation of gambling. But it goes beyond that, the Share Market is now socially sanctioned gambling. Individuals can place their money with a company they know very little about and to remove it once they make a profit or tough times arrive. When sudden profits are made on the share market, someone else loses, maybe not immediately but eventually. All of this can be done without a single care for the company or its employees. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

    The problem we face is that its the ‘get rich quick’ factor of gambling, share market day trading or high risk stocks is very attractive to the masses (and too easily accessible) that work 5 days a week. With entertainment warping what reality really is, the concept of working hard for many decades to find security and perhaps some wealth is seen as yesterdays strategy. A bygone era.

    Great post Pete.

    Reply
  2. Gambling like many hobbies and pastimes we entertain ourselves with should be done responsibly and in moderation. I agree that odds being advertised at venues and during live events should be canned. The entertainment and enjoyment aspect of a small wager (real or fantasy) on a game watched with mates cannot be denied. if you drink it doesn’t mean you think alcoholics are ok, and if you gamble responsibly it doesn’t mean you approve of the masses sitting at the pokies throwing their $ away. You should never gamble what you can’t afford to lose. Creative advertising on the pitfalls of gambling should be looked at just like the TAC attacked speed and alcohol in drivers. For the record, can’t let Oooze get away with that little tidbit about the share market being ” socially sanctioned gambling”…..little bit hysterical for this writer

    Reply
  3. Have a harder think about the share market Matt. If day trading, it costs a mere $25 on average to make a trade. The average day trader like those in my family and many people I know make their decisions not after reading through annual reports or sitting through a general meeting, but after reading reports in the media or based on information from a friend or aquintence.

    If sitting down with a financial advisor about a managed fund the question ‘what type of fund would you like’ is always raised. The are ‘conservative’ funds and ‘aggressive’ funds. The aggressive funds are always tied to higher risk. Where there is the option of low or high risk, then this is in essense a form of gambling.

    The dictionary definition of ‘Gamble’ is as follow,
    – to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance.

    Easy access to share trading due to the advent of the internet allows the average man to now take risks that were previously unavailable to him. All investments involve some form of risk but very few can be done at the click of a mouse and finalised in a nano seconds. This is where online betting and share trading have similarties. Property and precious metals require all manner of documentation to be completed before money is commited. Not the so online betting or share trading. This parralell is hardle ‘hysterical’.

    Is it fair to say that most people would know more about the footy team they bet on than the companies they may be invested in?

    Reply
  4. Oooze, not meaning to offend you in an way, but your argument of the parallel beteen on line gambling and the sharemarket has serious holes in it.

    Firstly, I nor any of my mates have ever trawled thru annual reports or gone to an AGM before buying shares. To do so would be ludicrous, and would not necssarily alter my decision in any way. When the GFC occured and many good people made losses, the so called advisors, and expoert analysts also made even larger losses. So with all the analytical data available huge money was still lost. So the sharemarket in itself will always be a gamble of sorts, but it is nothing like the gamble of punting. When you punt on horses , or sport, an you get it wrong, even by the smallest amount, you lose ALL your $. When I get it slightly wrong on the sharemarket you lose only very little, and possibly over time, still make money.

    If the sharemarket is considered gambling under your defintion then many decision in life would also be considered gambling. Buying on Ebay, moving jobs, selling a house, buying a house, getting married, trying to have kids, having kids, investing in a small business, buying a used car…….all of these things could be considered gambling because there are chances things could go wrong and you will lose something of significant “value” as your definition has stated. If 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce (don’t know the exact figures), that would make it the biggest gamble you ever make wouldn’t it ?

    If Joe public wants to invest $1000’s on speculative stocks then that says more about the person themselves than it does about the infrastructure that allows them to do it. Surely as a society we can’t shut down infrastructure that the majority of people use responsibly and sensibly to block the un-intelligent from making bone headed decisions. If we were to go that way, all the Pubs would be shutdown because of the alcohol fueled violence that occurs every weekend. You are right that it is more easily accessible than ever before and that in itself the average bloke can get on without too muchj research but for those who do follow the market and read up on it, paying a stockbroker $80-200 to press the mouse instead of doing it yourself is financial insanity. The issue here is the family and friends of the people making the boneheaded decisions and the counsel they give or choose not to give.

    If I bet $500 on the Hawks this weekend, and they lose (likely), I would lose $500.
    If i buy $500 of CBA shares and they drop off in the next week or 2 , i might lose $50 or if i hold on may make money in time.
    Simplistic I know, but that to me is the difference between gambling and investing.

    Good to read the different viewpoints boys

    Cheers

    Reply
    • Hey Matt, yeah I totally agree with your comments.

      You stated “Buying on Ebay, moving jobs, selling a house, buying a house, getting married, trying to have kids, having kids, investing in a small business, buying a used car” could be considered a gamble. Correct, but there is a big difference to the purchase of stocks. Usually these decisions are made not simply to make money. They are usually considered over a long period of time and are for an express purpose. Something you buy on ebay is usually for some purpose, not for profit.

      However share purchasing is done purely for profit. The decisions are often made based on little information and usually involve large sums of money, so there is a significant difference.

      The GFC comment is a good one. I personally got out of the market March 2008 because there were some big indicators that it was coming but it really depended on who you listened too. People such as Peter Schiff called it loud and clear.

      The particular family member I mentioned had much of his Super in a high risk share portfolio and had placed large additional sums into the Super. Come GFC, a great deal was wiped out but debt was still owed on the home. The extra conributions should have been paying off the home loan. However the culture of growth/greed that has existed in the financial markets for many years now led him to believe otherwise.

      I’ve read of many such incidents, share portfolios dropping in great sums while the person or family in question has a home loan debt, generally a large one. The culture created in this society is ‘wealth through debt’. Its perfectly acceptable attempt to make more money from investments while in debt for a home.
      .
      This is the point I’m making, that despite debt its perfectly acceptable to risk/gamble on further debt in an attempt to make more money. Yes, its worked from many people but its also stung many others.

      Share trading is certainly far less risky than betting on the Hawks but a large percentage of investors are risking money they don’t have. Only 30 years ago this was inconceivable.

      I don’t believe the parralell has holes in it but I do have a very different perspective on finanance than most people. Quite a complex one at that so I don’t take offence at all, you make some very valid points.

      Reply

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