Love the Game shows one in 25 teens experience harm from gambling

BUDGET: CAFS Love the Game gambling education program leader Tanika James with Ballarat Christian College students Krystal, Lydia and Ethan. Picture: Kate Healy
BUDGET: CAFS Love the Game gambling education program leader Tanika James with Ballarat Christian College students Krystal, Lydia and Ethan. Picture: Kate Healy

In every high school classroom of 25 teenagers, research shows that one of them may be experiencing harm from gambling.

As online betting and advertising has normalised gambling in sport, the problem of teenage gambling has exploded to the point where three quarters of teens consider gambling a normal part of sport.

Year 10 to 12 students at Ballarat Christian College took part in the Love the Game school education program, which explores how gambling has become more normal, how it's a way to spend money not make money, that it's risk and offers an insight in to the harm it can cause.

Love the Game

Tanika James from CAFS, which delivers the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation-developed program to Ballarat schools, said the workshop used a range of activities and information to prevent gambling harm in teens.

"We explore some of the factors that make it feel more normal for young people, like advertising, games that look like gambling, simulated gambling products, and give them information to show what's happening," Ms James said.

Activities include drawing up a weekly budget and seeing the impact of losing money from that amount through gambling, or the risk of "chasing their losses" and hoping a win will turn their fortunes.

They also discussed how, when something feels normal, the risks are often not considered and people can end up experiencing harm.

The language of sports betting advertising also came under the spotlight, with phrases like "cash back" and "the fold" making it seem impossible to lose money.

Ms James said teenagers often felt enormous pressure to fit in, but the normalisation of sports and gambling means teenagers might assume everyone is doing it more than is really the case, and follow suit.

"Usually the students are pretty open to it and feedback from previous sessions shows they do take something away from these sessions. It puts it on their radar that there are harms associated with gambling, and that there are services to help," she said.

Ms James said most students were shocked that one in 25 of their peers suffered harm from gambling, and that for every person with a gambling problem there were six people indirectly affected.