On the 21st and 24th of February, young people gathered in Erina, on the NSW Central Coast, and Wollongong to discuss gambling policy with their peers. The discussions were the first two YMCA Think Tanks for the year, and the first Think Tanks ever to be held outside Sydney. The policy discussion was prompted by a Legislative Council inquiry into gambling policy in NSW. At both Think Tanks, the design, accessibility and promotion of gambling were investigated, along with the policy of voluntary pre-commitment and gambling education.
The design and accessibility of gambling, in its many forms, are relevant to young people given the easy accessibility of online sports betting, and the prominence of poker machines in pubs and clubs across the state. Think Tank participants brainstormed some ingenious ideas in their exploration of design and accessibility, suggesting that poker machine addiction could be addressed with popup ads programmed into the game. These would interrupt gameplay and provide information for gambling counselling services. Other suggestions included mandating clocks in gaming areas, and displaying bets in dollar figures as opposed to “credits”, which distances the player from how much money they’re losing. On accessibility, the centrality of gaming areas to club layouts was questioned, and the age verification systems for online betting services were deemed inadequate.
The main outcomes of both Think Tanks were the proposals for gambling education programs, brainstormed by the participants. Most ideas revolved around educating young people about the realities of gambling, and the potential for big losses. This would include the use of guest speakers, possibly reformed problem gamblers, to talk about their experiences. Other strategies focused on teaching students how different games work, and using maths to show the slim probability of winning.
After all the deliberations, a proposal is being put together which summarises the recommendations of the Think Tanks, which will be submitted to the Legislative Council inquiry. Stay tuned!