MY SAY: A national celebration of problem gambling

FROM the Billabong Roadhouse in Western Australia to the streets of the Sunshine Coast - it really is the addiction that stops the nation.

No matter how much you dress up the Melbourne Cup, with Fashions on the Field or glamour stories about the jockey who won, at its core it is still gambling.

And Australia has a huge problem with gambling.

Problem Gambling's website estimates that conservatively there are at least 500,000 problem gamblers in Australia.

That is more than double the number of people who have emphysema from smoking (124,000).

It is also estimated that problem gamblers directly affect the lives of 10 people around them, making it a staggering five milllion people who suffer as a result of the highly addictive habit.

And yet we call for Melbourne Cup day to be made a national public holiday.

And yet we glorify a horse race in almost every workplace and restaurant, and it wouldn't surprise me if schools got involved too.

Is our love for the Melbourne Cup a sign we don't take gambling addiction seriously?

This poll ended on 11 November 2015.

Current Results

No. Everyone should be able to have a flutter on one day a year.


Yes. It makes light of something that can be a serious problem for addicts.


Melbourne Cup day is a good opportunity to have the gambling addiction conversation.


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Of course, Melbourne Cup day is not the main problem for gamblers.

It is the pokie machines available in lifesaving clubs, bowling clubs and any business lucky enough to get a lucrative licence to feed people's largely useless hopes of making a quick buck.

ABC's shocking account of how an ordinary woman became a thief to feed her pokie habit should have been the story that shocked the nation.

The science which showed how pokie machines hijack or hypnotise the brain with their lights and action should have resulted in a call for more control.

To my knowledge, it hasn't.

The reason is simple - pokie machines make a lot of money, not just for the sporting clubs but also for our state government.

They are simply too profitable to worry about the few who can't control themselves. After all, most people don't have a problem with gambling so why should the rest be punished?

It would be like banning alcohol when only a relative few are alcoholics.

For the record, I love the Melbourne Cup.

I love that it is a day I get to dress up and have a harmless flutter with a group of friends once a year.

I know nothing about the horses. Most people I know who gamble on the Melbourne Cup don't know about horses.

And except for this week's dramatic win by the first female jockey, I've never really cared about who was riding the horse.

The thrill and excitement of the Melbourne Cup is the collective chance of winning something.

It is about taking a punt and that is okay if it is controlled.

But celebrating horse racing is surely no better than celebrating a group of people smoking cigarettes in a corner.

One ciggie a year is unlikely to cause harm.

I can only imagine how hard it must be for a problem gambler not to get caught up in the excitement of a day that glamourises and legitimises his or her soul-destroying habit.