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Sports betting – can we have one without the other?

By: Georgia Ashworth (clinical psychology registrar) and Dr Anastasia Hronis (clinical psychologist)

As the weather starts to cool and the nights become longer, sporting codes around the country are kicking off for the season. For sports fans this means weekends spent supporting their favourite teams, spending time outdoors and enjoying quality time with friends and family. Unfortunately, it also means gambling ads, multi bets, tipping competitions and office sweeps. In Australia, sports and gambling have become such a synonymous pairing that it has become difficult to imagine one without the other. So how can we experience the joys of our favourite sports whilst being mindful of gambling?

Firstly, consider why sports betting is tempting. Asking yourself questions such as 'Would I be thinking about placing the bet if I hadn't seen that ad?', 'Am I betting just because they're my team?' 'Am I trying to keep up with my friends?'. The better that behaviours can be understood, the easier they are to recognise and change. Also, taking a moment to consider your thoughts can delay the decision to gamble and lead to healthier choices.

Next, be mindful of the environment and how this could be a trigger for gambling. Are there places that encourage you to gamble? Watching sports on the big screen at the pub might be great time, but if it’s leading you to gamble it could be worth thinking about locations with less gambling-related cues e.g., signs, screens, pokie rooms. Change things up and host a night at home with friends, or seek out a venue where gambling is less present. Many venues are moving towards #proudlypokiesfree, offering a similar atmosphere without the same availability of gambling.

If you’re planning to watch the game with friends, it’s important to think about how you might respond to peer pressure and plan for difficult questions. This might include being assertive with your responses, setting clear boundaries, or redirecting conversations if it keeps coming back to why you’re not gambling. Also, it's always a good idea to be upfront with a trustworthy friend who can provide support and help keep you on track.

Finally, remember that the urge to gamble will pass. Most urges last no longer than 1 hour, so whilst the first half of the match may be challenging, the second half should be easier.

For more support on this topic or any gambling issue you might want to talk about, call Gambler’s Help 1800 858 858.

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