The Invisible Issue of Melbourne Cup Day

Melbourne Cup: The race that stops the nation every time a horse dies.

Everyone from the attendees to the activists to the Spring Racing Carnival event itself is forced to take a moment when this happens. Even the cameras will linger on the curtains that surround an injured horse, moments before the animal is euthanised.  

Moreover, before and after every Melbourne Cup race, a national argument rages on. Many people across the political spectrum debate if racing horses is a form of animal cruelty. Currently, there is no national consensus on this issue, so the debate surrounding the ethics of the Melbourne Cup continues. 

However, while discussing if racing horses and animal cruelty are conjoined concepts is important, another vital discussion is yet to happen in Australia. On a national level, few people are talking about whether or not Melbourne Cup Day is a difficult date for problem gamblers. 

The fact that problem gamblers are ignored on Melbourne Cup Day is troublesome for a huge reason. So let’s just dive straight into it: 

Problem Gambling Is a Disease 

To begin, problem gambling is an actual illness. This can be demonstrated in how the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) classified problem gambling.

The RANZCP defined problem gambling as a mental health issue where a person has difficulties in limiting how much time or money they spend gambling. This investment in gambling then creates personal, social, and economic harm to said gamblers and their communities. Moreover, this mental health issue is similar to other substance-related disorders.

But what does this definition have to do with the Melbourne Cup? Well, the Melbourne Cup is a huge day for gambling in Australia. For instance, in 2020, punters bet a whopping $221.6 million on this race. 

Therefore, you can’t help but wonder how many problem gamblers bet on the Melbourne Cup race in 2020. You can’t help but wonder if this event helps folks manage their illness, relapse, or spiral further downwards.

Now, The Latch chatted with the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation about this issue and they said that they had some concerns. 

“At particular times of the year, like the Spring Racing Carnival, there is a noticeable increase in both advertising by the gambling industry and media-led discussion about gambling. The ads, which make it seem like gambling is always synonymous with winning and don’t mention the risks, can be triggering for some people,” said a spokesperson. 

“Last year, an average of 948 gambling ads were broadcast daily on Victorian free-to-air TV.”

The fact that the proliferation of Spring Racing Carnival ads can trigger problem gamblers is a predicament for Australian society. It means that the Melbourne Cup event can hurt ill people that need our help and support the most. 

Related: Aussies Are Falling Out of Love With the Melbourne Cup

Related: Flemington Racecourse’s Flood Wall Is Everything Wrong With Australia Right Now

How to Gamble Responsibly

All Aussie gambling ads have the words “gamble responsibly” at the bottom of them, in a minuscule font. But what does this phrase actually mean? 

Well, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation didn’t just outline how the Spring Racing Carnival ads can be triggering, they’ve also provided us with some tips regarding how to gamble responsibly.

Here’s the advice that their spokesperson gave:

  • Set a limit on how much money you’ll spend, and stick to it.
  • Don’t chase your losses: If you’ve lost more money than you’re comfortable with, stop betting.
  • Leave your credit cards at home, so you’re not tempted to bet more than you can lose.
  • Alcohol affects your judgement, so don’t bet if you’ve had too much to drink.
  • Take regular breaks: Gambling continuously can make you lose track of time and perspective.

The spokesperson also said, “Anyone affected by gambling can call Gambler’s Help 24/7 on 1800 858 858 for free confidential advice and support from someone who gets it.” 

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