Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Reducing Gambling Harm Through Education

By watching this classic Warner Bros cartoon, Early To Bet, the answer to how to reduce the harm of gambling through education is revealed.

I found out about this cartoon from Rev Tim Costello who referred me to an excellent article by Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of the St James Ethics Centre. Click on this link to read Dr Longstaff's article.

Due to a report in The Age by Richard Willingham with the title "School gambling education call" (Click here to read the report)  and the story of the Geelong youth forum on responsible gambling being conducted inside a pokie club, the issue of gambling education has gotten some recent attention. Click on the image below to read the report and editorial in the Geelong Advertiser.

So, how is the question answered by this cartoon?

As usual, one must look to the Productivity Commission's report on gambling; in particular Chapter 9 - titled "School-based gambling education." The critical statement that guides any information or "education" directed to children is found on page 9.9;
"... the key evaluation issue is whether educational programs reduce current and future gambling related harm, not whether they merely inform."
Programs that reduce current and future gambling related harm are the goal. While making clear how sparse the research is, the Commission noted a key finding of the existing studies:
"The factor that most strongly predicts decreased gambling behaviour is when students develop a negative attitude towards gambling after attending the program."
The meaning of this key finding is clear. "Education strategies focused on young people and responsible gambling messages" is absolute shite. There is a vast difference between "responsible" messages and "negative" messages. While research is limited they find;
"improved understanding of gambling but little evidence of positive behavioural change"
It is negative messages that are needed..... just like the Early To Bet cartoon.

There is a 1988 finding cited by the Commission (Page 9.14) reinforces the need for negative messages:
"... partly attributed the relatively greater success of school-based tobacco programs (compared with alcohol) to the fact that these were accompanied by ‘consistent anti–smoking messages in the general media and to the emergence of a strong anti–smoking social movement’"
It is negative messages that are needed..... just like the Early To Bet cartoon.

The sense I took from the Commission report was that caution is essential because of findings that increased knowledge might result in increased harmful behaviour;
"... findings suggest that increased knowledge of gambling in children and adolescents may have the unintended consequence of intensifying harmful behaviour, a risk that should be considered in the design (or even in considering the introduction) of school-based programs." (@9.14)
The Commission went further at 9.17
"... the Commission considers that there is scope for adverse outcomes to occur from school-based life skills programs including gambling."
Finally, consider the Commission's finding and recommendation:
"Little evidence has been collected about the effects of school-based gambling education programs on students’ gambling behaviour. However, evaluations of similar programs in alcohol and vehicle safety have found that, while they can raise awareness, they tend to have no, or even adverse, behavioural impacts."

"Given the risk of adverse outcomes, governments should not extend or renew school-based gambling education programs without first assessing the impacts of existing programs."
The point is that not only are the suggestions of Clubs Australia wrong but so is the substance of the Geelong program of the Victorian government being held under the banner of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. It is called "A Safer Bet? - Look after your mates" rather than "Don't Bet". It appears to be an option whether an accompanying teacher is even required. The Geelong youth forum is doubly wrong by being held at a poker machine club. Both the message and the environment in which the message is being delivered are flawed.

Governments should follow the studies cited by the Productivity Commission. No one campaigns to "Smoke Responsibly". Equally no one should campaign to "Gamble Responsibly". The proper course is to implement campaigns for people to quit gambling emotionally pointing out the harm caused by these dangerous machines.

It is negative messages that are needed..... just like the Early To Bet cartoon.


Anonymous said...

Smoking harms EVERYONE who smokes... Gambling only harms a small percentage who gamble... MASSIVE DIFFERENCE!!!

PokieWatch said...

It is a high proportion of people who regularly gamble. More than enough, in it's present state to be a dangerous product.

Johnny said...

While a gambling addiction is hard to kick, I feel it's not nearly as hard as a cigarette addiction. Nicotine is terrible for your health, and those around you, even if you're only smoking a one or two a day.

Anonymous said...

Gambling harms everyone in the community not just a small percentage.