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Helping young gamblers help themselves

Four men standing smiling on a city balcony with skyscrapers and construction work behind them

(L to R): plumbing apprentice Andrew Rowe, acting manager of plumbing and gasfitting at RMIT Glen Woods, plumbing apprentice James Ivic, education and support team leader at Incolink David Clark, photo: Paul Jeffers

by Maryrose Cuskelly

The neon green façade of Storey Hall is matched by the vibrant colours of the plumbing apprentices’ hi-vis vests. They’re here at RMIT’s city campus for a session with David Clark, education and support team leader at Incolink, which manages commercial building and construction workers’ entitlements and provides wellbeing and support services.

David is coaxing responses from the young men about their gambling behaviour. He has arrived at this point via a discussion about managing their income. If they gamble frequently, the amount they spend should form part of their weekly budget, he tells them. He relates anecdotes about blokes whose gambling has cost them friends, jobs and cars, and encourages the apprentices to share stories of their own: mates or family harmed by gambling and strategies for managing their own gambling.

He relates anecdotes about blokes whose gambling has cost them friends, jobs and cars.

David’s presentation is part of the Apprentice Prevention Education Project, a project funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s Prevention Partnership Program. It aims to educate young building and construction industry apprentices about harm from gambling, strategies to reduce it and where to seek help. The session today coincides with the launch of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week and the foundation’s new Keep it well played campaign, which encourages a balanced approach to gambling and provides tips to keep gambling levels in check. David’s message is similar: ‘We’re not telling them that it’s wrong to gamble. We’re saying, only bet what you can afford to lose.’

At the launch, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Marlene Kairouz, draws attention to the presence of the apprentices. ‘They fall within the age group which has the highest participation in sports and events betting. That makes programs like Incolink’s vital in shaping the habits of these talented and hard-working young people.’

Young men and gambling harm

Andrew Rowe is a third-year plumbing apprentice. At 36, he is older than many of the apprentices in the room and gambling is no longer something he does. The prevalence of apps makes gambling too easy, he believes. Back in his twenties, he and his friends would sometimes gamble at the pub, giving each other a ‘razzing’ if they lost money. It was an attitude that probably limited their gambling, he reflects.

James Ivic, a second-year apprentice, says gambling isn’t restricted to young men in construction. ‘A lot of the qualified guys talk about it.’ He believes the gambling industry should be open about the effect it has on people’s lives. ‘I know it creates a lot of jobs, but they don’t talk about the bad things that happen because of gambling.’

‘We’re not telling them that it’s wrong to gamble. We’re saying, only bet what you can afford to lose.’ - David Clark

According to David, a range of factors place young men, in particular, at risk of gambling harm:

  • Young men tend to be risk-takers and their friendships often have an element of competition.
  • The gambling industry has normalised the link between sport and betting.
  • A large proportion of gambling advertising is directed at young men.
  • Mobile devices provide 24-hour-a-day access to gambling.
  • Apprentices, although on relatively low wages, often have a significant level of disposable income.

With around 95 per cent of building and construction workers being male, it is vital the industry helps inform apprentices about minimising gambling risks, David says.

Strategies to minimise risk

Chris Hoare has been an education and support officer with Incolink for two and a half years. He estimates about 50 per cent of apprentices he speaks to are self-identified gamblers. ‘You find that pushes out to about three-quarters when you start talking about events like the Spring Racing Carnival.’

He suggests a number of strategies to young workers to reduce their gambling risk:

  • Leave ATM and credit cards at home when you go out.
  • Implement the ‘two-pocket’ plan: place the amount of money you’re prepared to lose in one pocket. Once it’s empty, you’re done for the night.
  • Ask mates to come and get you once the time you’ve set aside for gambling is up.
  • When you’re going out, try to choose a venue without pokies.

Celebrating success in reducing harm

Dan O’Brien, Incolink CEO, says Responsible Gambling Awareness Week is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the program in reducing gambling harm. It’s a view foundation CEO Louise Glanville reflects in her remarks at the launch. ‘Our partnership with Incolink to deliver gambling information sessions to apprentices is one of our most successful to date.’

Between January 2016 and June 2017, 279 education sessions were presented at 25 TAFEs to 3566 apprentices. Feedback collected after the sessions indicates the vast majority of participants are able to recognise signs of gambling harm, know how to contact Gambler’s Help and are aware of strategies to reduce their gambling risk. ‘The Incolink advantage is that our guys who speak to young and upcoming tradespeople are from the industry and know it inside-out,’ Dan says.

David Clark discusses the education sessions