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Drew’s take on being marketed to gamble, then being reminded to gamble responsibly.

Drew Holman, a Conversation Facilitator and Chief Construction Marvel has had enough of being marketed to by gambling organisations and then reminded to gamble responsibly. We are right there with him on that one! Addiction to gambling ruins lives, men and women lose their homes, their loved ones, their health and have even taken their lives at the hands of gambling. Other public safety announcements (smoking, road trauma) don’t brush off their warnings as lightly as gambling appears to do. Other public safety announcements are in your face, they are consequential and do not make taking that risk glamorous at all. It does leave us wondering how serious, as a society, are we about stopping this harm to our community?

If, like many Australians, you listen to the radio, watch TV, peruse social media or look at billboards, you will see or hear the term ‘Gamble Responsibly’ tens or even hundreds of times per day. It’s the convenient little disclaimer tacked onto the end of extravagant advertising, encouraging you to gamble on one supposedly random outcome or another, be it a sporting event, lottery, election or financial market. These two words apparently make any gambling advertising somehow okay, no matter how extreme, outlandish or devious they may be. So ubiquitous is this tiny phrase, it has become either white noise and not noticed at all, or is subtly themed by the advertiser using tone, method of delivery or timing to become in fact, a part of the ad itself.

Strong men gamble

Consider a prominent TV and radio campaign currently on high rotation that features a range of mostly young, mostly white men doing vaguely foolish things while a deep male voice delivers a ‘blokey’ voice-over setting up some obvious gag.

As the ad reaches its finale, the voice-over reaches a crescendo with the punchline, pauses, drops an octave further and snaps out “Gamble responsibly…”, leaving the target of the ad (young men) with the clear subtext of, “make sure you do gamble, because people (I mean men), gamble if they are in fact, real men, with massive t#$+!*&s. These men have deep voices and lots of mates who have heaps of fun at the pub and usually win, but if they lose it’s funny, so don’t worry, just gamble. Don’t stress about those silly people (women) who might think you’re an idiot for gambling, they’ll forget about it when you win, and if they don’t? Who cares, it’s not like they’re your mates or anything? Plus your blokes will think you’re even funnier if you choose gambling over girlfriend because that’s what real men do anyway.” Who wants a beer thrown in amongst that insecurity?

Only men that gamble stand a chance

Or the TV ad for an international betting agency featuring an attractive female dressed in a dark suit with an open neck shirt strolling in front of various screens showing a multitude of sporting events, talking about how much she loves the thrill of the punt and won’t let anyone tell her what to do. By the way, this new platform we are offering makes betting on whatever you want a 24-hour proposition and did I mention how easy it is and don’t forget our great offer for first-time users! Finally, she takes a seat, looks seductively into the camera and breathes, “gamble responsibly”. Again giving the not-too-subtle message of “yeah sure, gamble responsibly OK, but just make sure you do gamble because I love men who take risks. You know that you’ll never get a woman like me if you play it safe, responsibility just isn’t going to cut it with my hot friends and me, plus, all the cool kids are doing it, so come on, join in, don’t stress about the fine print.”

The subtle subtext is nothing new in advertising, and neither is gently twisting a disclaimer to function as part of the ad. However, the sheer volume of gambling advertising in our present reality is something new and allows for the very real possibility that it becomes an accepted reality and progress unchallenged. Here lies the threat.

What’s the future? Help available.

What are your thoughts? I know the Gambling Help Hotline does a great job in supporting families and individuals. Surely there is more that we can do to support them?

We have our Heart Projects open at the moment. We’d love to partner with anyone working in this space within the community. Particularly younger men facing this pressure every day.

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