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When I think about problem gambling or gambling addiction or when I have thought about it in the past I’ve never really thought of it as a big issue in Perth or in WA. Mainly because I’ve always kind of associated that with pokie machines and we don’t have those everywhere (in Western Australia). They’re restricted to just the one casino in Perth city at Crown Casino. Gambling is never really anything I’ve done or been interested in outside of a few scratchy’s that have been given to me as a present or maybe a Melbourne Cup bet because when I was in primary school everyone in the class did it.

We all went into the TV room, this is back in the 90s. Mainly because the teachers wanted to watch the race and they had bets on. We were all sort of not encouraged but it was it was certainly clear at that age that having a punt at least on the Melbourne Cup was a completely normal thing to do. And I’m not saying that that’s bad or wrong, but I’ve never, I’ve just been someone that never ever had an interest in gambling.

So when Linkwest got in touch with us with Alucinor and talked about this project they were running I was interested because to be honest not about the potential of what the documentary was going to be that we were going to make — and the plans for that documentary based off our initial pitch and brief needed to change two or three times really. The plan for how to go about making it and what we were making simply because of what we learnt about the issue and the stigma around it and are and the willingness of people to openly share and talk about it. So it’s been a huge process of discovery but what I was really interested in was learning about this issue because as far as I knew it’s a pretty niche issue you know, it affects a very small number of people (or so I thought).

And what I’ve learnt through the process of meeting people and making this documentary is that, this is not in niche issue this is a massive issue that is being thrust into the limelight or needs to be thrust into the limelight with the advent of online gambling in particular.

I think of online gambling — the amount of advertising that is out there and the lack of a restriction on that advertising is interesting, maybe that’s not the right word. I can’t watch commercial TV nowadays. Almost every time I watch something it doesn’t matter what it is I tend to see an ad where there is a group young guys joking around being silly and you know it’s an ad for some online betting thing. I think this is something that’s maybe snuck up a bit but it’s everywhere now.

And look there is a massive level of individual responsibility and accountability that is obvious (people need to take responsibility for their own actions) I’m not saying it’s the fault of advertisers that people’s gambling escalates into problem gambling. But I think we’re really behind the eight ball when it comes to the freedom that some gambling advertising have.

I’m gonna be honest and say that if I was making the call on that, knowing what I know now after meeting people who have had problems with their gambling and getting an understanding that it doesn’t affect just that person with the problem gambling, but many people around them family and friends — I would like to see an approach taken to gambling advertising are similar to that of smoking.

I’m not saying that I think gambling should be banned at all, that would be a really dangerous thing to do and wrong as people should be free to gamble if they wish to, plenty of people gamble recreationally without it ever becoming a problem for them.

But surely we don’t need gambling advertising blasting through our television sets and radio sets. Surely we don’t need to see it popping up on our Internet screens when were just browsing videos on YouTube or looking at a news site. I think a massive change needs to happen on that front.

You know this short documentary is really just about getting the conversation started at a community level, arming people with information. It’s been really inspiring to see the work Linkwest, Neighbourhood Centres and the project partners such as Centrecare have been doing.

Going into this production I thought I’d be going into sessions I have these grand ideas in my head that it would be something like what you’d see in a movie of a really emotional Alcoholics Anonymous session. It’s not like that at all. One thing I’ve learned is that gambling, in particular problem gambling is something that often happens behind closed doors or in secret. People don’t know and people are suffering in silence and there is a huge stigma associated with it.

So if this little documentary can go a way in helping people just to reflect or learn about problem gambling before they start, or if they are going to gamble in the future or if they are gambling now — just to prevent people from going down that path.

Clearly there’s a lot of work to do in the community around this issue and clearly advertisers and by that I mean TV networks, media organisations I hope, I think need to rethink gambling advertising. After going through the process of making this I genuinely completely feel it (gambling advertising) should be put in the same basket of smoking. I don’t want to see gambling advertising at sporting events. I don’t want or need to be told the odds every by commentators.

The more I’ve looked into this the sicker I feel about it. I think ultimately it will be a matter for legislation but boy it be wonderful, it would be pretty spectacular if all advertising agencies TV networks media organisations said, you know what this is making us a lot of money but let’s not do it because this is harming a lot of people. (Yeah right!)

People that want to gamble recreationally know where the casino is, they know where the TAB is or that there’s gambling apps. You won’t stop people from gambling by stopping advertising but it could help stop normalising it, glamorising it and I think it could do a lot of good in preventing a lot of harm that could otherwise happen to people that get into problem gambling and those around them that are affected by problem gambling.

Sorry that’s a bit of a rant enjoy the documentary. It’s pretty thought-provoking at least I thought it was. Not our filmmaking but the personal story as well as some of the insights from the participants.

I want to say a massive thank you to the man whose personal story features in this documentary (portrayed by the wonderful actor/model Glenn Hall).

Linkwest’s blog post on the launch at The Backlot