Gambling Ads. Is there a bigger load of rubbish?

Gambling_2Have you seen those TAB ads where the guys waltz through the pub, winking at girls and collecting big wads of cash?

What a load of rubbish.

There are rules around alcohol advertising in terms of what you’re allowed to show and suggest.

However, it seems that gambling ads aren’t subjected to the same controls, as these TAB ads are a complete fiction.

First, there’s not one packet of cigarettes to be seen on any surface. Anywhere there’s gambling, there are smokers.

Next, nobody’s visibly drunk, depressed or even just slightly maudlin. The happiness on display is actually the exact opposite of the attitudes of most patrons, in every betting arena in Australia. Also everyone seems to be relatively healthy – another mammoth fallacy.

Most importantly of all, there are attractive girls. In a pub. During the day. Who seem to be attracted to Gambling_5men who are gambling.

The only time I have ever seen an attractive female anywhere near a gambler is when the girl is being paid to be there. Usually in action films, as part of a scene where everyone is just about to be either blown up or blown away.

They may as well have set these gambling ads at the end of the rainbow.

Where are the men and rare women standing by themselves and staring off at nothing? Surrounded by scrunched up tickets, and combing the form guide with a pencil for some hidden winner? Searching and scanning for some way to claw back a smidgen of what they’ve lost.

Or the dead-eyed staff, seeing out their time for the cash they need to survive, get through school, or fuel their own entertainment.

The staff are the only ones in the venue who’ll go home in front because if you want to make money, you won’t do it gambling. You only make money by working.

Gambling-memeSometimes you might win more than you lose. There are even a few professional gamblers who do make a living from it, exactly because they’ve removed the risk and have turned it into a job.

Most other gambling ads are just as bad.

There’s Samuel L Jackson telling us to enter the matrix style futuristic computer wonderland that is online betting, simultaneously undermining every ounce of cool he’s ever accumulated.

Or Tom Waterhouse talking about how gambling is in his veins, while walking among footballers and horses.

You know what’s also in his blood but not mentioned in any of his ads? Cheating. His father and grandfather were banned in 1984 for one of the biggest scams in Australian history. It’s also worth noting that it’s no longer even his company – it was sold in August to British gambling giant William Hill.

Occasionally, I like to gamble. As a break from socialising, I don’t even mind pumping a few dollars into a poker machine, but I know it’s not about making money. It’s about the possibility and the thrill of winning.

The process of gambling hits a pleasure centre in your brain, and that’s why people do it, even though they keep losing. Studies have found that gambling can even arouse feelings of euphoria similar to a hit of heroin.

Every time you make a bet, you’re reminded of your previous big wins, as there’s a possibility that it’s about to happen again.

Despite the actual odds being always against you, with every bet comes a part of that wonderful winning Gambling_3feeling, delivered to your senses by a brain that’s preparing itself for ecstasy. It’s a trick, and it feels good, and also explains why people are more likely to keep betting after a big win, although logic should be screaming at them to stop.

Some Asian cultures have understood this for centuries, since gambling for them is not about how much you lose, but how much you’re seen to be winning.

It’s a trick that’s understood on some level by everyone who gambles, which is why we all share the good gambling stories but never the stories of the big loses, despite there being far more of them.

Talk to any gambler, and according to them they’ve won enough to retire many times over, but they obviously haven’t, which is why they still go to work every damn day.

Gambling is a fun park for adults, a video game arcade where we’ve replaced those machines that churn out tickets for ones that spit back cash.

You put in money, and it returns entertainment, and a little less money. Let’s all just stop pretending that it’s anything else. And that starts with getting rid of gambling ads that all seem to be set in a magical fantasyland, where every bet is a winner, and every gambler is a carefree, wealthy and healthy alpha male.

Oh and by the way, just like heroin, it’s horribly addictive. While writing this, I’m actually playing maximum lines on a one-cent machine, and I’m not going anywhere. The free spins are well overdue. I’ve just got to hang on until I get those three pyramids and I’ll be going to Disneyland.


Here’s a link to the TAB that inspire this rant. Spliced together with anti-gambling ad. Bet you can’t tell them apart!

(It’s simple, so that’s a bet I’d never make. Or maybe I would, if the odds were good enough.)


Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

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