WITH gaming venues closed amid Melbourne’s lockdown, Jewish Care has issued a warning to elderly people not to overindulge in online gambling, as part of its general concern with gambling among the elderly.
Cassandra Barrett, Jewish Care’s program manager, healthy communities, said that in normal times, “older people are much more likely to engage in activities such as the pokies, lottery and Keno, compared to sports betting or online gambling, in which their participation rates are generally very low”.
“However, online gambling is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia,” Barrett told The AJN, “and with an ageing population that is increasingly e-literate, growth in this area amongst older people in the coming years is not unlikely.”
Barrett said, “Gambling – or ‘having a flutter’ – is a well established pastime in Australian culture; many people enjoy it as a form of leisure or recreation, and experience little or no ill effect as a result. There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, and like any adult, an older person’s right to make that choice should absolutely be preserved.
“However there is a need to balance dignity of risk with duty of care to vulnerable people – particularly if an individual’s gambling behaviour reflects a social need that may be better met in other ways.
“Limits on the promotion and function of gambling, coupled with accessible support options for those seeking to change their behaviour, significantly reduces the propensity for harm while still maintaining an individual’s right to choose,” she said.
Barrett noted that the gambling industry is known for purposefully targeting vulnerable groups, in particular those who are experiencing social isolation – including older people, an especially desirable demographic valued for their ability to ‘fill the floors’ of gaming venues during off-peak hours.
Gaming venues employ a range of direct marketing tactics to entice older people, such as vouchers or discounted meals, free drinks and transport to and from venues, she said.
“For older people, there is also a generally reduced ability to manage the damage that can be caused by gambling,” said Barrett.
“They have less time and financial resources to recover from the financial, social and psychological consequences associated with gambling harm.”