Alternatives to gambling

Some suggestions for
better uses of a noble human instinct

Re-Definition of Problem Gambling today: 'Everyone who is in debt who spends more than $75 a week gambling.'

This definition could help to change people's gambling patterns.









It is not enough to say, "Don't throw your money away at Casinos and pokies". What can people do instead to get a thrill in their dull lives? It would be better for them not to be dull in the first place, but even thinking about the ideas below should liven them up a bit.

Macaulay wrote about the classical form of gambling with your life in his Lays of Ancient Rome

For how can man die better
Than when facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods

Let us rewrite this, for gambling that offers life, not death.

For how can we live better
Than when facing fearful odds
For the future of all children
And no blank, devouring gods

To understand the psychology of gambling is the best way to bring down the social costs of its waste of people. Find the motives WHY people are so willing to lose their money - and redirect those motives. So many motives are entwined, and also, individuals are different in what pushes them. The present ambulance solutions for problem gambling at present attempt rescues when the damage is hard to repair. It is more effective and cheaper to prevent self-destructive gambling behaviour by finding other directions for what pushes it.

I am an addicted gambler myself. I am not looking at OTHER people as THEM. My gambling addictions are both serious and non-serious. My non-serious gambling addiction is mainly a game of chance I invented that is played with a 5000 word jigsaw. This game is so addictive that I cant have it in the house - I have to ask a friend to keep the jigsaw in a hiding place at their home, and only lend it back to me for a short binge every six months. My sister used to keep it safe away from me, and then she found that she was bingeing playing it too, and couldnt have it in the house. Hiding it is essential - and this is an important psychological clue to reducing problem gambling - or any other addiction - because ANY sight or sound related to an addiction can be too tempting to withstand. People who produce social advertising or school educational materials or current affairs programs ought to know this - or be charged with incitement every time they have a picture of a poker machine or a syringe or a cigarette.

About my serious gambling addiction, I write later.

Let us now look at some of the recognised motives for gambling - and then - get into the deeper stuff where it gets more complicated.

A current survey of the Australian way of life (Quantum) includes a page-ful of 25 formal ways for Australians to gamble for prizes. And it doesnt even include two-up. That's a fair chunk of the Australian way of life, for perhaps most of the population. The survey then lists a raft of motives for gambling, for you to choose what pushes you into it.

The many possible motives for gambling listed in the survey for you to explain to yourself why you do it include- the temptations of possible immediate reward, the fantasies of an enormous reward, getting something without effort; gambling as a habit, a social activity, a bit of fun, a psychological disorder or disease - illusions that you are special and so you will have a better chance than others - the irresistible pressures of the advertising - or your need to get out of the house and do something different- or it's an obsession - or you feel it's a challenge to test your abilities, man against machine. It's a relief from boredom - or you dont want to miss out on a chance of winning - and, but stated a little differently - you are flying the flag to show that you belong to the culture around you, because everyone else does it. I have also heard people claim that their gambling is 'their way of paying taxes'- but for this to work - nationalised gambling is required rather than profit diverted to private corporations.

Now, it is easy to work out new directions for every one of those motives for gambling - so that the Psychology of Gambling can be better satisfied by doing something else instead. There is only time here for a few suggestions.

• People gamble in the hope of winning. Tabcorp claimed in 1998 that 69% of players play for entertainment and do not expect to win. Well, test that claim and have no payouts at all. Then see who will pay to play what games, and how much they will pay, if there are no prizes. Will you put your money in just to get the bells and whistles - when you know there will be no prizes at all? And it's so easy to play games of chance with your friends - even a little home roulette wheel - wagering nothing or very little. little or nothing. little betting gamesyou can have your own little roulette wheel to play

However, when there are prizes, informing people how little chance they have of winning anything, statistically, even odds of millions to one - will not stop most people hoping that they will be the lucky one.

• Several psychological mechanisms make people hope to be lucky. Perhaps - if they knew these mechanisms, some people at least might be less influenced by them. Perhaps.

i. One of these mechanisms is intermittent reinforcement. That is, it is harder for pigeons, rats and humans to give up on a response that is only occasionally and unpredictably rewarded than if the response always wins a prize and then suddenly the prizes stop. A gambling habit operates on this intermittent reinforcement, and so it is hard to stop. When rewards come only rarely, but may perhaps still come, many gambles will still have a sort of conditioned hope - and so they are still driven to play - despite mounting losses - and even at a cognitive level being aware that they are being stupid.

ii A second reason for continuing to play despite losing money, is the strange deep belief most of us have as children and as immature adults - that we are special, we are different from other people, that disasters cant happen to us, somehow we cannot die, and that somehow we can be given what others are refused. That is why the binding effect of intermittent reinforcement is particularly strong when a novice has a win during their first time they play - and there have been claims that some operators may rig some games to ensure that new players have early wins. This immediately reinforces the innate belief that "I am special!" "I am the lucky one!", and it will be hard to extinguish. I think that children in schools should not be taught that 'I am special' but that 'Everyone is Special' - and should be able to gain their emotional support and self-esteem from faithful loving relationships - rather than from illusions of some innate specialty from the rest of us.

iii. A third reason for gambling in spite of losing is related to religion. Just about all religions include practices of giving gifts to the gods and hoping to receive gifts from them. In fact, since people first dropped out of trees, more societies have had cultures with formal sacrifices than have invented writing. Regular sacrifice has been as oil to keep the cosmos running, or at least your part of it. And when you are powerless, what else can you do but make offerings to the powerful? It is as if there is some inner need to be given from above - gifts that have not been deserved, and to placate the gods by giving some sacrifice that is costly. Gambling does both - the offering of a sacrifice and the hoping for a sign of the god's benevolence. In a secular society, this god is Lady Luck. Well, it is understandable - that when you win a prize that you have not deserved by any effort - you feel that Fate is smiling upon you, and you are a special darling.

Whatever evolutionary psychologists may find about the origins of altruism, individual willingness to sacrifice themselves has made possible most of the reforms that have ever happened. But the masses can also be willing to sacrifice themselves, as in times of war. The people have always been asked to sacrifice themselves. Wherever there has been a developed society, 'Tighten belts' has been a frequent order, usually willingly obeyed. 'Give us your sons.'

Women have been the greatest givers of ritual offerings, possibly because their lives required so much sacrifice and suffering, Today women, especially the increasingly ineffectual elderly, are the majority of pokie-players.

When times are rough and uncertain, sacrifices become tougher - people have thrown their children into the fire to appease Moloch - screamed in self-flagellating mobs in times of plague. The Aztec civilisation was already in crisis, before a few hundred Spaniards appeared. The escalating hecatombs of human sacrifices were by then numbered in thousands, their own people, not just their enemies. There may be modern less-organized parallels.

Peoples have often seemed unconsciously aware of impending disaster to their civilisations. "Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad" observed the ancient Greeks. And so there is more superstition, more irrational sacrifices, and society itself becomes a problem gambler. Rather than action to change our lives in any real terms, there are attempts to try to pay off the malevolencies. The more powerlessness, the more the only hope appears to be gambling as sacrifice. A losing problem gambler will continue to throw himself on the altar, and often, if he does have a win, he will hazard it again and lose it.

And for the high rollers, too perhaps, gambling is also in part a sacrifice of appeasement to the gods of fortune, mixed with their more practical and calculating greed. Our cathedrals are casinos, our wayside shrines are the pokies.

* Now if Skeptics think all that may be getting a little spooky - here is another major featurein the psychology of gambling. It has been estimated that about 80% of gambling revenue comes from 20% of the population, mostly on the bottom rungs, and the highest density of poker machines is in poorer areas.

Why do the poor waste so high a proportion of the little they have in gambling?

A sidelight on this from children's essays collected in the 1970s in Melbourne on how they saw their own future. Significantly, children in middle-class schools were more likely to write about their ambitions for good jobs, homes, travel, relationships. The children from poorer schools were more likely to write that they hoped they would win Tattslotto. Why? Look closely and you find that this was the only hope their families could see of how to better themselves. The traditional ladders of education and saving seemed to be failing them. Only the brightest of these children could hope to compete with the better educated children of the better schools. In the old days also, families could save hard, and their nest-eggs grew in the savings banks, at a steady 5%, wasn't it? But now people starting with only small deposits could no longer become richer by saving their money.

So - if lower income groups are to stop becoming poorer by gambling- two things are needed. First, education - must become a surer - and more desired- pathway up for their young. Secondly - secondly, it must become possible for them to improve their fortunes by hard work and saving. Saving rather than debt must be encouraged. The present situation is the responsibility of the banks. At present - banks do not need the people's savings, because they borrow from overseas. Instead, banks profit when people are unable to save - because then the people must borrow from the banks, The more that the banks are profiting from their present policies - then the more lower-income groups can see only gambling as their hope of enrichment or as a way out of debt and out of their income trap. And the example of people at the top making themselves multi-millionaires in single swoops - inspires emulation- by the hope that is so insistently set out before them - that they could do the same by a lucky gamble.

A little way further up the income ladder, there is another option - the example - of gambling with shares and speculation - as being an unearned way to amass far greater wealth than by investment that aims to provide capital for productive enterprise. This is now is a gambling society rather than a capitalist one - and the spirit of it percolates from the top down right to the bottom.

There are some major drivers for gambling in our society that must be dealt with on the broader economic scene. This may be perceived as blasphemy - speaking impiously of sacred things - but skeptics are needed for economics too.

Nevertheless, even as things are, there could still be useful gambling for the poor, without risking losses of the little that they have. It always seemed to me that Britain's Premium Bonds were a good form of gambling, to encourage investing in government business, and to win prizes at nobody else's expense It could also be possible to have a Lucky Saving Deposit accounts - and a real Common Wealth Bank could run the Lucky Savings for the people.

But what about playing gambling games just for fun. What is the psychology of gambling as entertainment?

A little bit of a risk in the midst of security adds a ripple of flavour to a dull life. A Cup Sweep in the office is a also a friendly social binder. A raffle for a good cause or a tombola at a fete - they can be seen as a little bit of a flutter - and the good cause benefits and nobody else loses. Friendly dares - I bet I can, I bet you cant - and someone has to shout a drink. Or a game of bridge played out with small silver or matches. But as the Greeks said, Nothing too much.

Boredom. The problem sets in when someone depends upon gambling to get all their pleasant kicks and thrills. So many elderly people at the pokies because of boredom - while the yunguns also bored are getting into even more dangerous sources of kicks.

It could be possible for our culture to offer more satisfying and less expensive ways to avoid boredom - and even to advertise these alternative pleasures until NO POKIES could become an advertised attraction for social venues. There are so many ways - that people's lives be made more joyful and fun in real life, - and there is so much else that could counterweight the 'instant reward' and lazy brain-less activity provided by interacting with a machine rather than other human beings. A machine may seem preferable because it is never abrasive, rude or nasty to you - but warmth, kindliness and good humour from other people could be a preferable alternative. Indeed, for those who in this computer age now NEED machines to interact with - and to provide excitement - and who find soothing the obsessional series of manoeuvres - involved in pulling handles or pressing buttons or watching lights - one idea could be alternative playing machines for adults that could churn out more innovative rewards at less cost - Gimbling rather than Gambling. Cybergames for the elderly, incorporating excercise for the arms and feet to work the machines.

Many people feel their lives are dull and aimless, but on the other hand, their potential sensitivity to enjoy peacefulness and quiet has been blunted by the hoo-ha, heavy beat and visual dizziness of today's entertainment and television. When all this raises people's limen for stimulation too high, so to speak, then they find they need more tingle keep their pulses ticking. Such as the flicker of hope in buying a Tatts ticket, or playing on a jazzy machine or joining a gambling table.

Escape. Obsessive hours closeted with a poker machine or at a gambling table in a room with no daylight or clocks can also be a way to blot out unpleasant realities outside. A way of escape, just as our whole society is obsessed with ways of escape from reality. Then the more a quagmire of gambling debts makes life outside more unpleasant still, the more likely the gambler will return to that temporary escape. Yet here are so many other ways to escape temporarily from real life that are re-recreational, rather than destructive - but do not make profits for anyone. There are so many other pleasures to be learnt - since, I tell you - we LEARN most of the forms of our pleasures, regardless of what primary drive they satisfy. People are ignorant. They dont know the alternatives. Schools have no set function to train for everyday life, to inspire interest in all sorts of constructive activities that can be continued after leaving school, and develop initiative and capacity to find one's own recreations, one's own absorbing interests, hobbies, and I dare to say this, to find escape and consolation in reading books - not just learning how to answer questions about them.

From school and television, everyone could taste more pleasurable, cheap and useful leisure times, and discover what may be their own food for the spirit. Clubs, singing, nature, old time dancing, art, sports, writing, mending, inventing, making, meditating, musical instruments, crafts, volunteer work, local botany and birds, sewing, how to enjoy peacefulness and the fresh air. What to do when you cant be energetic as well as when you are full of zip and no way to zip it. As well as renovating homes or backyards.

Lonely people particularly need pleasant surprises in life - and gambling is often a way of hoping for a pleasant surprise, when they cant hope for example, for friends ring up, invitations out, little successes. Now there are Samaritans and Life-Line - there could be a Surprise Club run by its own members for people with gambling or boredom problems, The essence of being a member of a Surprise Club is that you know that sometime in every week, something small but pleasant will arrive in the mail, and you can send one - from letters and postcards to invitations and little gifts.

And what about more Useful Competitions for Gamblers - which also promote Thinking as a Pleasure that is more fun than blowing brains or stoning them. Because one elements in the Psychology of Gambling is how it can blot out thinking.

Australia needs bright ideas for its social problems and quality of life - but there are not enough people doing this sort of gambling. For example, thousands of people emter competitions that are 'ust lucky draws, effortless gambling' but when there was a competition for bright ideas and social inventions, requiring under 100 words, there were only 68 entries in spite of nation-wide radio publicity.

This is partly because doing what everyone else is doing is part of the Psychology of present Gambling ,pushed by advertising. Anti-gambling advertising can inadvertently promote gambling by raising temptation, perhaps populist slogans could help - making people laugh and feel it is trendier not to be sucked in. Slogans for walls, T-shirts and adult literacy reading books - for example -





Now let's get on to the business of the Psychology of serious gambling.

Gambling against odds is one of the noblest human characteristics, and without it there has never been any progress or reform. Heroes, inventors, explorers, pioneers and undeclared saints gamble with their lives; migrants, business entrepreneurs, investors of risk capital, and social reformers take risks against odds. Any long-term commitment like marriage or having children or taking up a vocation is a gamble. Pilots, surgeons, miners, fire-fighters, police, divers, litigants, are all gamblers. The people of Melbourne - when many of them were still living in tents - built our great town halls and set out magnificent parks and streets - gambling for the future. Sometimes, as in the 1890s, they lost. But the rewards for this 'real' gambling can include the achievements themselves, the excitement and struggle, possibly honor and glory, sometimes wealth.

Gambling as gaming for money subverts this instinct because it removes the noble struggle and increases the greed.

The more people gamble for 'instant' money, the less energy , time and interest they have for socially-useful effortful gambling. To reduce money gambling, people must know how to gamble with their lives more recklessly and possibly usefully, to get more enjoyment of the risks and dangers and frustrations of real life, and even - it can be put this way - get a buzz from sacrifice to rational causes.

For everyone, life is a gamble, whether you want it or not, and for many people, the odds are stacked against them. But you can also deliberately pick up the gambling gauntlet.

My serious gambling - to gamble one's life - is that some things are worth trying to do, even if they still have have the odds stacked against them. I'd like to mention five of the long shots in my personal casino - on the chance that there might be some people here who might be interested or knowing others who could.

Gambling Game 1. That self-help in literacy is possible with a half-hour video - a cartoon overview of the English writing system to watch at home, and prevent or clear up confusions. This project has been struggling now for nearly twenty years.

Gamble 2. That English spelling can be improved now, to meet people's needs,

Game 3. That our imagination can learn to enjoy peace rather than excessive excitement and watching other people's suffering,

Game 4. That everyone anywhere can be a social inventor to improve quality of life and help solve social problems.

Game 5. That it is worth struggling without giving up, on the slim chance that this planet may not be doomed.

These are the sorts of gambles that are worth making.

In this discussion of the Psychology of Gambling I have been making suggestions for the proper use of a noble human instinct.


The most exciting form of gambling is to gamble your life or even some of your time and effort on something worthwhile that most people think hasn't a chance. Almost everything that we have benefited from has been the result of this sort of gambling.



In the past, people could raise themselves by saving, and the country benefited from the industries and investments made possible by their saving. Let this be encouraged again. And a bank like the Common Wealth Bank should do it or change its name.

• Where money prizes are involved, many prizes give more people pleasure and financial relief than one big one although more people may be attracted to gamble for 'the big one'. The big one' is also more socially subversive.

How it operates

In 'Lucky Saving', people under 25 and pensioners can open 'Lucky Saving' deposit accounts, which get a steady 5% interest for the first $1000 and the ruling rate for any more. Deposits which reach to over $500 are eligible for the Lucky Draw, which is an embellished Certificate for $100, which can be either cashed for $100 or put into the deposit account as $105. Either way, the winner keeps half of the embellished Certificate (not the whole, to prevent forgeries.) and a box of chocolate. Only one Lucky Saving deposit account per person.

The system could be run from central office weekly (or daily if the scheme really took off) sending out a Certificate and appropriate form to a branch chosen at random from all branches not previously selected (and after that, starting from the total pool again.) The first person coming into the branch to make a deposit in their existing Lucky Saving account after the central office letter arrives wins the Certificate and the chocolates (even if it is some days later.) The teller or Branch Manager may announce that the Lucky Savings Certificate has been won (and so all tellers know it is been won.)

Annual cost to the bank for a weekly prize would be:

    • $5512 for prizemoney plus chocolates,
    • Less profit per small accounts while under $1000 but the result would be more accounts which are truly not so expensive, and socially beneficial,
    • Advertising which need not be that much, including leaflets for schools, libraries, community centres (and which would gain much community goodwill.)
    • Cost of gaudy passbooks with tinsel-appearance borders.


Many women have boring lives, and a gamble or private worship at a poker machine gives just that much of a buzz. There may be some retired/unemployed women who would like to run a Surprise Club for women liable to gambling problems.

The essence of a Surprise is that the women who are struggling with their problems never know when they are going to receive something small but pleasant in the mail, at least once every three weeks, but more often at first until the recipient has become more independent. And there at the other end is someone they can correspond back to, saying whatever they like, and about their needs and desires. This can also help them become more literate, and is also self-therapeutic. At first the correspondents don't meet, but they may later. The sender is always the same person, unless it turns out to be mismatched. The Surprisers can always refer problems the encounter to an adviser.

The surprises can be of a wide variety cards according to season or life-event, reply to a letter, 2 tickets to something (donated by the show), a little book, token, sachet, picture, sample, ideas for something within the person's range of interest, magazine cuttings that would interest that person, competitions that can be entered without a fee, a poem-for-a-day. . .

People who get the surprises can respond by sending similar surprises to others, starting with overseas, to ensure that no exploitative relationships develop through the club.

Some people might like to fund the costs, including recipients as they become stronger.

Within a suburb, the surprises could be dropped in letter-boxes to save postage.


Gambling against odds is one of the noblest human characteristics, and without it there is no progress or reform. Heroes, inventors, explorers, pioneers and saints gamble with their lives; migrants, business entrepreneurs, investors of risk capital, and social reformers take risks against odds. Gambling as gaming for money subverts this instinct because it removes the noble struggle and increases the greed.

The more people gamble for 'instant' money, the less energy , time and interest they have for socially-useful effortful gambling.

Australia desperately needs bright ideas to help with its social problems and quality of life - but there are not enough people gambling in this direction. Thousands of people post entries to competitions that are 'effortless gambling' but there have been only 48 entries nation wide over 15 months for a competition requiring 100-1000 words, a 45 cent stamp and a bright idea or project, however small, for $1000 in prizes.

People are so used to enormous prizes for gambling competitions, and hearing about people who 'earn' $1000 an hour, but a council cleaner works nearly a month to earn that much, and a full-time Domiciliary Carer is paid that much in 10 months.


a brillig idea

"Poke 'em - but you won't be plucked."

Some of us have a desperate need for some excitement in dull lives - a little flutter. The best solution is to undull our lives so all work and play is enlivening. We're working on that one.

In the meantime, there are better ways to gamble rather than give your money to a rich man. But people who have got acclimatised to sitting at a machine and putting in clink money may need a transfer mechanism, such as psychologists use in weaning people away from phobias and addictions.

They need a Gyr and Gimbl Machine. This comes in two parts - the Gyr and the Gimbl .

A Gimbl Machine

looks a little like a Poker Machine - it might even be an old one. But when you put in your $1 (or $2), none of it goes to the rich. You lose nothing. Charities and local businesses gain. You then turn a handle and several things happen :

  • Pictures joggle on a screen with scenes from Jabberwocky mixed up with pineapples and stars.
  • Music cranks out ending on a triumphal note as out of a slot comes either:-
  • A ticket to tear off from a wide streamer, which gives you $2 (or $4 ) off anything over $10 ($20) at a named local store - the gamble is, which store,
  • Or a Lions charity lifesaver sweet (or 2 packets)
  • Or pack of charity sweets sale-price $1 (or $2)
  • Or, for a $2 entry, a tax-deductible receipt for a popular charity like the Children's Hospital.

    Every 200th entry gets a $20 shopping voucher for purchases over $30 at any local shop

So it is not strictly gaming and should not require licensing - only monitoring to ensure nobody cheats on the idea and its working.

Making Gimbling Machines - possibly by renovating old poker machines - could be secondary school free-time projects, with as much learning value as MacDonalds. This would include Jabberwocky artwork which could decorate the machines and the tear-off strips.

Siting of the machines - Within venues, for security. If the tear-off streamer included a voucher for transport, it could be sited at manned railway stations too.

The Local Shop vouchers could give a thrill of gambling and swopping around with friends, as you got a voucher you really wanted at the time, or could save up for Christmas time, or really would never use yourself. Participating shops would have no costs after setting up the machine except honoring the vouchers, which would be like a Specials item to attract custom. It would be wise to restrict shops to those which sold at least some items under $25, and to local shops. The vouchers would be one-color, possibly printed on coloured paper so more attractive and unlosable, and devised to be not forgeable with fotocopies, eg. through serrations.

Advantages -

  • Thrills for the gimbler - which could be added to by surprise elements on the tear-off strip, such as a character from jabberwocky with a 'message', and a second go - or something - if you get the Jabberwock on your strip.
  • Variation in return for the gimbler, but never losing it all, and usually winning
  • All the money goes to a useful purpose, none to private profit

Promotes local businesses Helps charities Not too difficult to arrange the gambling element, as the roll of streamers is pre-printed, (with items randomised on repetitions of the list,) and each gambler gets the next item

A Gyring Machine

In UK, a Giro is a place you can pay your bills (I think that is what it is).

An Australian Gyring Machine, for $2 would give you $4-off stickers to put on your essentials bills, such as Gas, Water, Electricity, and Telephone.

The stickers include the logos of the billing firms in a different color so they can't be misused, and they are peeled off a little card which you can fill in to send to the billing agency to tell them how they can improve their services. They could include chances for $4 off for conservation products and activities, such as Public Transport.

THE GIMBOL is about what sticker you get.

A Gyring Machine would add interest to life, and tourists would be amazed. All that is needed is how to persuade billing agencies that they would be a good idea. They could certainly help people to be more interested in conservation.

I would like to see Gyring Machines on railway stations and at bus terminals - or the existing transport machines could be turned into real Gyries by every 200th person getting double their money back.

Copyrights and patents-intended

GAMBLERS, please gamble your ideas to:

the Australian Competition for Social Inventions, before you throw away another cent.


'Most would accept that in this industry, not all spending is rationally made or provides commensurat benefits'.
Inquiry Report No 10 of the Productivity Commission into the Gambling Industry, November 1999.

The benefits of ethics are not included in this report. Gambling is seen as an industry like any other, distinguishd only because of 'problem gambling and its attendant costs. Without this, the gambling industries would be like most other recreation and entertainment industries and the extent of their contribution to the economy would not be an issue.' (Vol 1 p 52)

As with the usual judgments about gambling, the focus is on financial benefits, plesurabl benefits and the financial costs of gambling to individuals and the country. The first aspect is assessd mainly by quantitativ assessments and the second by survey data.

It regards as 'Misconceptions' any arguments that 'gambling merely shifts wealth from some people to other people, creating no wealth' or claims that people gambl to win, and have no pleasure in losing. 'Gambling is best characterised as a form of entertainment albeit one where a major element of that entertainment is the chance of winning some money'.

Some of the summary findings in the report seem simplistic, especialy for a 'Productivity Commission'

I found no reference to the effect of gambling on Australian savings for potential investment - which increases the need for foreign investment and hence foreign ownership of Australian assets.

There appeared to be no reference to the nature of the 'enjoyment' of much of the new gambling industries contrasted with other potential sources of enjoyment that are now missed. 'Getting out of the house' into windowless places is hardly an improvement as is claimd. Much of the new gambling increases personal isolation. The gambling 'skills' that some are credited with gaining are poor substitutes for the skills practised in many other forms of enjoyment, both of mind and body.

The estimated net consumer benefits from gambling in the Summary (Box 9) took no account of losses from diverting potentialy profitabl uses of money, or of diversion by poker machines and casinos from potentialy more physically, socially and mentally healthy forms of recreation, where the excitement of risk-taking may be included as only one element.

Not directly quantifiabl of course are the ethical elements -

• the increasing absence of other ways by which poor people can improve their lot, now that banks penalise any attempts to save by the 'have nots'. The Productivity Commission should have seriously considered this unfortunat pressure to gambl, made recomendations about access to investment by all sectors of the population, and criticised the banks' penalising of small savers which stimulates gambling.

• approval of gaining more money without effort than can be earned by useful work

• approval of gaining money at the cost of others' losses

• -the government gaining substantial revenue in this way from people who gambl because their lives are poor in financial opportunities and because they lack other plesures to lift their lives.

These ethical issues affect the fabric and morale of a society, and can only be indirectly quantified. Nevertheless there was a time in the early history of this country when there were high ideals for the 'Common Wealth' and the lives of its peple. Now a Morgan poll can limit the four most meaningful things in life for Victorians to choose between to be the essential but restricted aspects of money, sport, sex and romance. (AGE 30/7/2000, p 5)

Gambling is an instinct essential to human progress. The gambling instinct should be directed to that productive end and not diverted Too many Australians never even think of themselves as exercising a spirit of enterprise, initiativ and innovation, applied with activ energy. A flutter on the side can be OK, but the present absorption in money-gambling at all levels prevents productiv high-flying towards other goals and enterprises in really living.

In a real sense, all industries in Australia are gambling industries, where the instinct to take risks and to test fortune can be exercised responsibly and ethically - and plesurably. All exploration and invention is gambling. All commitments in personal relationships, and in having a child - they are all gambling. For plesure and excitement and losses and gains, for risks and being open to Lady Luck - live to the full, which is not sitting at a poker machine.


The key to the psychology of gambling as government revenue is that the alternative is to tax the top end of the population, rather than the bottom.