Gambling with Families

When Dad or Mum stumbles through the front door drunk several nights a week, children pick up quickly that booze might be a problem. But when Dad is away for hours, Mum and Dad fight over money and there is severe marriage conflict, children don’t readily think that Dad has a gambling problem.[1]

But the effects on the kids can be just as devastating. Gambling problems are often clothed in secrecy. The problem explodes for a parent when there is not enough money to pay for the rates, house mortgage, the electricity, or the telephone account. Children can be severely negatively affected by a parent’s gambling.[2]

Some problem gamblers leave the family home and skip out on the marriage relationship over and over again.[3] Children grieve over the loss of the parent and the family is left with fears and insecurity because of not enough money to pay the bills. Taking swift steps to safeguard family finances is top priority in dealing with problem gambling.[4]

When family find out about the gambling, it is common for them to have outbursts of anger, even rage. Like the person with a drug addiction, lies, deceit and theft can become part of the gambler’s lifestyle.[5] An extreme example of gambling’s family impact was the July 2004 report of one man accused of selling his five daughters into prostitution to pay for his gambling debt.[6]

Australians are keen gamblers, spending over $13 billion dollars in the year 2001 on gambling.[7] Most do not become problem gamblers but about 2% of adults do experience problems.

Appendix A

According to the Government of Western Australia, Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, these are the statistics:

· About 290,000 people in Australia (that is approximately 2% of all adult Australians) are considered to be experiencing significant problems associated with gambling.

· It is estimated that in Western Australia, problem gamblers represent 0.70 per cent of the adult population.

· Western Australia has the lowest rates of problem gambling and this can be attributed to the relative availability of gaming machines in comparison to the other states and territories.

· The average duration of gambling problems is nine years.

· Problem gambling is most prevalent with regular players of gaming machines, racing and casino table games.

· It is estimated that in 1997/98 problem gamblers spent (lost) $M2 673, 80 per cent of which was expended on gaming machines.

· Between five and ten “other” people are affected by the behaviour of a person who has a gambling problem.

· Each game played on a gaming machine is independent of results from past games – machines that have not paid out for some time have no higher chance of paying out now or in the near future.

· If a gambler “reinvests” their winnings, he or she will eventually lose the lot (available from:, cited 11 May 2005).

For a report on the Western Australian Gambling Industry, 2002-2003, see the Status Report at: [cited 11 May 2005]

Appendix B

“For every gambler with a gambling problem, there are about ten other people who are directly affected. They could be partners, wives, husbands, children, friends, parents, business colleagues, anyone”[8]

Appendix C: Gambling in Australia

“Key findings from the investigation [Productivity Commission 1999] found that around 330,000 Australians (2.3% of the adult population) had gambling problems, with 140,000 experiencing significant problems. The 330,000 problem gamblers on average lost nearly $12,000 per year from gambling activity with many problem gamblers experiencing emotional difficulties – one in ten problem gamblers said that they had contemplated suicide because of gambling.”[9]

Appendix D: Gambling 2001-2002

Australia’s $15bn gambling splurge[10]

23 September 2003

AUSTRALIANS gambled away more than $15 billion in 2001-02, according to new figures released today.

The figure works out at $1,016.85 for every Australian aged 18 or over, a rise of more than $21.95 on the previous year.

Put in other terms, 3.4 per cent of the average household’s after-tax income was lost gambling.

Australian Gambling Statistics, prepared by the Tasmanian Gaming Commission from data in all states and territories, showed Australia’s appetite for gambling continued unabated.

Total gambling turnover rose 6.56 per cent to $125 billion compared with the previous year.

Per capita, Northern Territorians were the heaviest losers, pouring an average $1,576 each into pokies, horses, casinos, lotteries and other forms of gambling.

In NSW, $1,212 was spent, while Victorians lost $1,180.

West Australians, who don’t have pokies in their pubs and clubs, were the lightest losers, at $469.

Poker machines in pubs and clubs swallowed the most money, with $85 billion spent Australia-wide, followed by casinos with $21 billion wagered.

[1] This kind of scenario is what I face in counselling problem gamblers. No confidential details are revealed here. Her husband was complaining about how he was not able to pick up her gambling addiction readily and he wanted to know why. I walked him through the differences between illicit drug & alcohol addiction, and gambling addiction. So the evidence for this kind of statement is subjective, coming from my casework.

[2] Again, the evidence is based on my casework but camouflaged so that it won’t be recognised, but the principle is the same.

[3] Evidence? Casework.

[4] Evidence? This is part of my counselling intervention and in two months with Lifeline, it has been most successful in helping with them move to responsible gambling or eliminate gambling. The choice is theirs. I always present the alternatives.

[5] Evidence? Casework.

[6] This article reporting of a father who sold five of his daughters into prostitution, concerns a Pakistani father, Allah Ditta from Lahore, Pakistan. The mother, Bashiran, appeared in court, seeking protection for her 13-year-old daughter, who was threatened with being forced into prostitution by her father to pay for his drug and gambling habit: “Bashiran claimed her husband is a drug addict and a gambler. She said that he has been selling their daughters to elderly men over the last thirteen years in order to settle gambling debts. Bashiran said she protested when Allah Ditta tried to sell their fifth daughter, 13-year-old Sakina. She said she feared that he would sell their last daughter, Maskeena, who is seven years old. She said she had already demanded a divorce but he refused” (Waqar Gillani 2004, ‘Man accused of selling 5 daughters to settle gambling debt,’ Daily Times, Pakistan, available from: [11 May 2005]. indicated that the date of this article was 3 July [2004], available from: [11 May 2004].

[7] “Australians are a nation of keen punters, spending over $13 billion dollars a year on gambling,” according to Justin Healey (ed.) 2001, Issues in Society, vol. 153, details available from: [retrieved 11 May 2005]. This article also states that “In 1999-2000, total gambling expenditure within Australia was $13.34 billion which is more than the Tasmanian 1999-2000 GDP of $11.6 billion, the national fuel excise collected ($12.7 billion in 2000-01) and more than the tax cuts given to offset the GST ($12 billion in 2000-01) (p.1).” According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Special Article, “Gambling in Australia,” in Yearbook Australia 2002, “Gambling activity in Australia has grown enormously during the nineties. Recent ABS data revealed that expenditure on legalised gambling exceeded $11b in 1997-98” (available from:[email protected]/0/99d3b5096368c2e9ca2569de002842b7?OpenDocument, cited 11 May 2005).

[8] “When the loser is not the gambler,” Gambling Support Bureau (Tasmanian government), available from: available from: [15 November 2008].

[9] Available from, “City of Onkaparinga,” at: [11 May 2005].

[10] The Advertiser (Adelaide), available from:,5936,7350469%255E421,00.html [11 May 2005].

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