Gambling Addiction as Suburban Slavery
The word “slavery” is one of the most emotionally evocative words we know. It reminds us about the women and children who are trafficked into sexual slavery to service the perverted lusts of the men who use them and to satisfy insatiable greed of their captors who abuse them. The stories of plantation slaves in post-colonial America remain deeply etched into the minds of the American people. Movies like Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave are so striking because they remind us of just how intrinsically evil slavery of any kind is and how affronting it is to us in the twenty-first century.
My contention is that gambling addiction is a form of virtual slavery that is being allowed to take root in the suburbs of Australia. The gambling industry has a very effective scheme in how they deploy gambling centers and its associated apparatus. It’s been a success and explains why Australians lose more money on gambling per capita than any other country in the world. Australia has 21% of the world’s pokie machines. Their strategy is very simple: entice, enslave, exploit. Whether its pokies, casinos, horse-racing, or on-line sports betting, the intention is to maximize the number of gamblers and how much people gamble. Problem gamblers make up 15% of all gamblers and yet account for some 40% of the revenue that the gambling industry receives. The gambling industry know this, they’ve done their homework, and they are more efficient than sex traffickers in Bangladesh at getting persons trapped and enslaved in their industry.
“But is gambling addiction really slavery?” someone might ask. “Aren’t you exaggerating things just a bit?” someone else might retort. After all, nobody actually forces people to gamble and to become addicts. True, but nobody expects to be enslaved when they set out. Young girls from Ukraine caught up in sex slavery in Amsterdam originally went there on the promise of a dancing career. Young men who get trapped into gambling originally went to their local RSL for the promise of a cheap drink and some free pokies chips. In both cases there was no intent to get enslaved or addicted to begin with. Let me add that I’m not saying that gambling addiction is the same as sex slavery, the latter is infinitely worse, I’m just drawing analogies between the two. Let us remember, though, the deliberate orientation of gambling towards cultivating addiction and the power of the addiction itself, means that “slavery” is an apt way of describing what is going on here.
Consider also the rationale used to defend the proliferation of gambling services especially pokies. We are told constantly being told that gambling proliferation is not a moral crisis within our society, it is just an economic necessity. Pubs and Clubs need pokies to provide their services. Government coffers need gambling royalties to keep the state afloat in tough economic times. Hear the argument: not a moral failure, just an economic necessity.
However, this argument – that it is not a moral problem but an economic necessity – was exactly the same one used by pro-slavery campaigners during the American abolitionist controversy. Southern plantation owners complained that they simply needed slaves to produce crops and that which is necessary must therefore be morally legitimate. Listen up! We are allowing government and the gambling industry to dupe us with the same arguments used to justify slavery.
The Problem is Political Corruption
The problem is not that the states have adopted an economic model that relies on gambling revenues. The problem is that both major political parties, the Coalition and the ALP, are owned by the gambling lobby.
The hotel and clubs associations have made huge donations do both the Coalition and ALP. What is more, politicians are getting jobs working for the gambling industry after politics. For instance, former Labour Senator Mark Arbib and former ALP national secretary Karl Bitar took jobs working for James Packer as part of his Crown Casino board.
No wonder then that when the ALP was in government that it made only paltry and pathetic changes to pokies legislation like limiting the amounts that could be withdrawn from ATM’s in pubs and clubs and proposing a long term time frame for introducing pre-commitment technology. No wonder then that one of the very first things that the Coalition did when it came into government was to reverse even these paltry and pathetic measures.
So hear me again: the gambling lobby owns both parties, it funds them, and offers politicians plum jobs with plush salaries in their post-political careers.
There is a simple word for this; it’s called “corruption.” When an industry funds both sides of politics and is able to influence its member with the promise of post-political riches, then I cannot put it any other way.
The gambling industry has proven that Australia has the best politicians that money can buy. They should know, they’ve bought the bally lot of them … except for the Greens and independents Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon. But that’s no matter. They also own the NRL, AFL, and cricket. If it sits in parliament or runs on a football field, the gambling industry calls the shots on it.
A Proposed Solution
The fact is that we need to stop the gambling industry from being able to buy our politicians like old ladies buying baubles from a tacky jewelry shop. We need (1) A complete ban on the gambling industry and any of their subsidiaries making donations to political parties; (2) A ban on politicians working for any lobby group, advisory board, or consultative firm employed by the gambling industry within five years of leaving Parliament; (3) A ban on gambling on television and radio; and (4) Real tangible pokies reform to limit the financial damage that pokies do.
Our politicians have sold their proverbial souls to the gambling industry. Our politicians have been paid to turn a blind eye to the systematic enslavement of men and women in the poorest suburbs of our country by the ruthlessly efficient pokies powerhouse. Our politicians even have the gall to feign concern and compassion for the economic misery, family dysfunction, domestic abuse, and suicide that inevitably follows in the aftermath, while knowing full well that their bastardly benefactors have orchestrated the whole thing, knowing full well that they were complicit.
A Final Plea
I know gambling is a form of slavery. Let me add that this is not hyperbole or rhetoric, I chose my words carefully. Much of my childhood was spent seeing my parents, especially my step-father, sink deeper and deeper into the merciless grip of gambling addiction. Our family experienced the economic collapse and domestic violence that went with it. I am not suggesting as a matter for academic debate that gambling as slavery, I’m insisting on it whether critics agree or not. I speak from the testimony of pain, as a child of one of the slaves, who saw the one’s he loved enslaved and exploited by this insidious power. For a better Australia, the time has come to set the captives free, the time has come to bring the slave-masters and their political lapdogs to their knees.