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Candidates in Calare unite against onslaught of gambling ads

(L-R): Adam Jannis, Kate Hook, Sarah Elliott, Kay Nankervis, Andrew Gee. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

If the response from candidates and the audience at last night's sold out Politics in the Pub event at the Hotel Orange is anything to go by, the people of Orange and beyond are completely fed up with the gambling ads that flood TV.

The Orange News Examiner forum last night ahead of the federal election on May 21 attracted five of the six candidates: Stacey Elliott (Labor), Andrew Gee (Nationals), Kate Hook (independent), Adam Jannis (United Australia Party) and Kay Nankervis (Greens).

Although One Nation candidate Stacey Whittaker was in Orange, she said she had been on her feet for 10 hours at a pre-polling booth - due to a severe shortage of volunteers that had left her tearing around the electorate - and was simply too exhausted to face a two-hour forum.

The wide-ranging discussion covered topics including a tunnel through the Blue Mountains, how Calare could exploit the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, a federal corruption body, Covid lockdowns, the lack of affordable housing, the Liberal Party's endorsement of a candidate in Warringah who has made deeply hurtful comments about the trans community, and gambling advertisements.

One question - about the endless loop of TV advertisements urging people to sign up to gambling apps - appeared to unite the vast majority of all of those in the room, no matter their political stripe.

Clearly, people are sick of them. Not only that, they understand exactly what's happening, the techniques used to lure people in, and the damage it can cause to those who let it get away. And to their families.

Orange is a city that loves a dabble. The last time I looked, about a year ago, the statistics showed that the small number of clubs and pubs hereabouts made about $100,000 net profit on poker machines each and every day.

$700,000 a week.

It's a figure that is truly mind-boggling, particularly when you consider the large concentration of machines in just a few venues, most notably Orange Ex-Services' Club.

(L-R): Sarah Elliott, Andrew Gee, Kate Hook, Adam Jannis, Kay Nankervis. Photo: Alana.

Poker machines are one thing. Gambling apps promoted by agencies such as Sportsbet, Neds, Pointsbet, Betfair, TAB, Ladbrokes, Blue Bet and Unibet are another.

It seems as if you can't watch a sporting event these days without having to mute non-stop gambling ads.

The target market is obviously young men and women in their 20s, and the aim of the game is to create the sense that a) you cannot get full value out of a sporting contest without betting on it and b) you really should encourage your friends to form a gambling club where you can all have lots of fun together.

Gambling, of course, is rarely as sexy and exciting as it's portrayed. But the advertising works.

"The reason there is 400,000 ads is that there is a dose response effect from advertising," advertising industry wheel Todd Sampson said on ABC TV's Gruen in November last year.

"You see gambling advertising, you want to gamble. We know that. It's proven. And that's why there's so many ads."

Sampson said that gambling companies were ahead of regulations, and were able to "push messages directly to you" based on the data collected on each gambler: "They know a lot about you ... [and] they make it super easy to participate - they lower the effort level."

He said this ease of access affected "a lot of people, especially addicts".

Sampson argued that while gambling on apps shouldn't be outlawed, it should be regulated in a way that protects people from falling into an unwanted habit.

At our forum the question about the proliferation of gambling ads generated applause from the audience. Kay Nankervis said enough was enough and that it was time for tougher regulations.

Sarah Elliott agreed. Kate Hook, too, saying she was alarmed to learn of bets being available to be placed on her for the Calare vote.

A TV ad featuring young blokes just having the best time gambling.

Adam Jannis said people should get outside and not bother with the ads. Andrew Gee said it was confronting to have his son quote match odds as they sat to watch a sporting fixture.

When I told the audience that The Orange News Examiner was supported by two pubs and that both - The Hotel Orange and The Carriers Arms - didn't have pokies, there was a generous round of applause.

There were about 90 people in the room last night. It was a small sample, but the feeling was strong.

Change will only come about via regulation. And for that, an MP needs to return to Canberra after the election with the will and the guts to do something about it.

Why not the next MP for Calare?


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