‘I’ll take a punt’, is something heaps of Aussies say, but at what point does gambling turn from a harmless bit of fun, to something that’s a problem for your relationship? In this episode Carmel and Zoe think about all the different ways they associate with gambling, and talk to guest expert Tony Clarkson, Head of Professional Development Centre at the Victorian Responsible Gambling Centre. For more information, please visit their Youtube channel, or visit the website for Gambler’s Help.
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Speaker 1: [00:00:00] Here we go. Money conversations in early stages of relationships are difficult, compromise all the time face hard choice. We've got the House. Oh, my mother said, when you get older, I wish you'd hurry to get older so that you would settle down and marry a rich man. [00:00:14][14.5]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:00:15] And I said, Mom, I am a rich man. Hello and welcome to another episode of meet pay love, a podcast where we talk all things money and relationships. My name is Carmel and as always, I'm joined with my sister Zoe. [00:00:30][14.5]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:00:30] You know, come on, we'd like to begin this podcast by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land in which we are recording and listening to this podcast on today. We pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. So what have we got for them today? [00:00:44][13.6]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:00:44] Well, today we're doing an episode on gambling. So we wanted to do an episode on gambling because once again, it's hard to have a podcast about all things relationships and money without talking about gambling at all. And so this one here is basically just about things like what are the trends around Australians and young people and gambling? How does gambling impact romantic relationships? And what can you do if you suspect that your partner has a gambling problem? And then I also delved into questions like, what is your opinion and what is Tony's thoughts on the idea that investing in the stock market is a form of gambling? And when does it cross that line into investing, into gambling? [00:01:30][45.1]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:01:31] Yeah, well, I think. They want to do a trigger warning on this episode because we do talk about gambling and investment as a form of gambling. And so if anyone has experienced that lot in their lives and this might bring up some unwanted feelings for them, please feel free to skip this episode. It might not be for you because the thing is, according to savings dot com dot you, there are about six point eight million regular gamblers in Australia. So that's 39 percent of the population [00:01:57][26.6]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:01:58] and that's regular gamblers, because I would consider myself to be not a regular gambler, but I'm definitely not completely anti gambling. So if I, you know, occasionally, like, I bet on the U.S. election, just for a bit of fun, [00:02:12][13.7]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:02:13] did you get it right? Yeah. Yeah, I did. [00:02:15][2.4]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:02:16] But that was my only bet for probably the last 18 months. So I'll have a little bit every now and then. My partner never, never bets, really, to be honest. He might bet at the horse races. But we've only been to the horse races together once or twice. So yeah. What about you? [00:02:34][17.4]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:02:34] I'm doing a bit more just because I'm not I don't have the knowledge. I don't want to put money down on something I don't know. So I don't have the knowledge and I don't have the patience to figure it out. But yeah, all it does do a little bit of betting, but he is very knowledgeable in a lot of subjects. So he loves doing basketball betting. Sometimes the horses. I don't really know what he does. Sometimes you just comes over a little bit extra money and I tell him to buy me something pretty. [00:03:00][26.1]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:03:01] But the thing about gambling is it doesn't really matter how much knowledge you have. It's still a gamble. Isn't that right? [00:03:06][5.0]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:03:07] I think there are some educated guesses, though. Yeah. [00:03:09][2.1]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:03:09] Do you think generally he's up or generally he's down or generally balances out? [00:03:15][5.3]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:03:15] He doesn't do it often. Let me preface this conversation with saying that he doesn't really do it often. He sometimes he will when he's with his friends and he just like that. Just having a bit of fun. Yeah. But yeah, he'll bet unlike a player's stats for the game, because he knows that player quite well and he knows what he's stats from the last couple of games. And so while it's still a gamble, he's not an educated guess. [00:03:33][17.8]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:03:34] And I guess it's no surprise really that from the four of us, the little straw poll that we've just done, may your pate and all that, Ali, is the gambler among us, because according to savings dot com you again, males are overrepresented among gamblers. So fifty four percent of all gamblers are male, which I've thought it would be high, about fifty four percent, I guess, and then forty six percent. But women I honestly thought males would be much higher. [00:04:03][29.8]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:04:04] But no, I think I know quite a few girls who love a good punt. But I must preface this as well. Gambling is such a negative connotation on the word. And so I don't want to call it gambling because it's not really. But I'm [00:04:19][15.0]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:04:19] sorry. But he is a gambler, like he gambles [00:04:22][2.3]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:04:23] sometimes all the time, though he's not like a gambler. [00:04:25][2.3]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:04:26] He doesn't have a gambling problem. [00:04:27][1.1]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:04:28] Yeah, he dabbles in gambling. [00:04:31][2.4]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:04:32] And this is the shocking statistic. But on average, men and women are eighteen in Australia are losing approximately one thousand two hundred and sixty per year just on gambling. The average gambler, as I said, we're really lucky and excited to have on the show as our expert for the gambling episode, Tony Clarkson. He's principal clinical advisor at the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. He was also a therapeutic counselor for many years. You can find him on YouTube if you want to hear more about him. And you can also go to gamblers help the Victorian Gambling Responsible Gambling Foundation's website as well. So now we'll cut to that interview with Tony. So today we have Tony Clarkson from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. Thank you so much, Tony. From coming on the show, perhaps if we can start off, if you could just explain a little bit about who you are, how you found yourself at the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and what do you do? [00:05:34][61.6]
Tony Clarkson: [00:05:35] Sure. Thanks for having me on, Campbell. So, I work at the foundation as the principal clinical adviser, which basically means that I provide advice on treatment and support for gambling issues. And the foundation funds gambling treatment and support services and prevention services across the state. I suppose my journey there really was I worked as a gambling counselor. You can probably tell from my accent I'm not Australian, so I'll try to not see it because not everyone speaks Glaswegian, but arrived in Australia pretty well. When was it? And we arrived 2013 with my wife and two boys and I trained as a psychotherapist in London, worked and worked with young people in London who had been in residential care and foster care and then came to Australia and worked as a gambling coach. So that was the first job I got and didn't realize that gambling was a big issue here, that it was the. Australians lose more money than anyone else on the planet when it comes to gambling, so that competitive spirit really has taken Australia to the top of the league table when it comes to losing money at gambling. So ended up working as a gambling counselor. [00:06:46][71.0]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:06:46] Wow. I didn't realize that Australia was number one in terms of gambling. [00:06:49][2.9]
Tony Clarkson: [00:06:50] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's pretty much I mean, we don't have figures for places like China where gambling is technically illegal and probably would be higher if we knew. But yeah, but Australia is about thirteen hundred dollars per person is lost every year for gambling. [00:07:06][16.0]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:07:07] Wow, that's crazy. And do you say in particular any trends around who is most affected by gambling in terms of age or gender? [00:07:17][10.4]
Tony Clarkson: [00:07:19] Yeah, so. So a federal government agency called the Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted a piece of work last year and they looked at the impact of covid on gambling. But generally they also looked at sort of trends and sort of different cohorts and age groups specifically. It's usually sort of 18 to 34-year-olds that are most affected by gambling. And that's kind of broken down by I mean, 18 to 34 year old males in terms of, you know, the the age group that they're into, specifically one type of product. And it's kind of traditionally online and sports betting. And you just I mean, you need to just look at the, you know, the sort of the advertising for online in sport or for sports betting is quite clearly sort of geared towards young males. So, yeah. So it's it's that's the kind of age group is most impacted. [00:08:09][50.0]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:08:09] And you said before that there's been reports of statistics showing that it's about thirteen hundred dollars lost per person in Australia. This might be a naive question, but is it most common that people would lose money in gambling? [00:08:22][13.1]
Tony Clarkson: [00:08:24] So most people who gamble don't don't experience any kind of harm. Most were people gamble and the gamble, you know, pretty infrequently, like, I'm quite happy to see that I, I buy a lottery ticket then again, or maybe, you know, a bet on my favorite soccer team who never win. So it doesn't make much difference. But basically just gamble, be once or twice a year. And that's kind of similar for most people. So for the people who gamble more frequently, and that would be people who gamble on sort of two or three products. So different types of gambling and products once a week that if you're doing it that frequently, then then you're likely to experience some harm. And in Victoria, so we've done a number of studies in Victoria. We know that gambling harm is kind of broken down into three main categories. It's kind of low risk, moderate risk, and then sort of high risk, really. So people experience more chronic or severe harms. And the entire quantum of that is about five hundred and fifty thousand people in Victoria have experienced some form of harm. But the issue really is that that in terms of relationships and affected others between about six or seven other people are affected by one person's gambling issues. So that kind of spreads quite a white or ripple in the pond. And that's where it kind of impacts quite, quite severely on relationships. What it can do [00:09:44][80.6]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:09:45] if you're in a relationship, what are some of the signs that you are getting to that level where you're having a negative impact because of gambling? [00:09:53][7.4]
Tony Clarkson: [00:09:54] Quite often. I mean, I still work as a gambling counselor now. So some of the clients that come to me talk about maybe a partner start to be really secretive all of a sudden, maybe hiding things like credit card statements or bank statements, never having any money. And I know that's, you know, haven't come through covid. That's that's a problem for a lot of people. So it doesn't necessarily mean that there's a gambling issue there, but it can be one of those times. And generally just pure communication lack kind of a lack of trust can start to develop in people's relationships at some of the actual harms. I suppose gambling sort of takes hold in a relationship can be, you know, anything from conflict to financial strain, emotional distress, intimate partner, violence even, and of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. [00:10:42][48.8]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:10:43] Is there a certain type of story that in your experience as a gambling counselor, that you say time and time again, if that common age group of mid 20s, I suppose [00:10:55][12.0]
Tony Clarkson: [00:10:56] there are a number of different sort of personas, I suppose you would call them really, I suppose, journeys through people's gambling experiences. But one that comes up often in particular with respect is and that would be people betting on horses and dogs is is quite often that's something that takes that takes hold really at so quite often you hear people talking about being taken to the races by a parent or grandparent, maybe remembering their childhood and remembering being sent down to the tube to put a bet on. Listen to the races in the background, you know, it was on the radio with Pokey's, with electronic gaming machines, it's a little bit different. So quite often not typical. But often what we hear is that people have a big wind the first time. And that quite often is the hook that kind of gets people in. So they'll come to gambling counseling and they'll say you'll talk to them about, you know, how did it take hold? What's your sort of earliest memory of gambling? And they'll talk about the first time a twenty dollars in a poker machine or when two grand, you know, so I just thought, this is fantastic. I'll give it another go. And then there's the other there's the kind of like I mentioned earlier because Australia's kind of the biggest loss, the biggest loss in the world is experienced by Australians. And then the sort of cultural story that we hear, I think is quite often. But it's almost like a rite of passage, you know, that people will go to the casino when they turn 18 because they can. And so it's sort of accepted. And the Australian Institute of Family Studies surveyed some of the people that they asked about their gambling experiences, talked about, well, it's almost an Australian not to gamble, you know, so it's sort of it's kind of embedded in a culture so much that I think those are some of the stories that we hear in counseling. But they're not by no means. There's no such thing as an as the one to suggest as a typical gambler. In the same way, there's not a typical, you know, someone who drinks or someone who uses drugs or, you know, where we're so much more than that as humans were. We're Constellations of different parts. And so just to refer to somebody else as one thing, you know, is, I think limiting. [00:13:08][131.9]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:13:09] Yeah, absolutely. And so if you're in a relationship with your partner and you feel as though your partner is taking gambling too far or experiencing negative impacts from gambling, what would be the advice that you'd give for the other person in the relationship? [00:13:26][16.3]
Tony Clarkson: [00:13:27] It's quite a difficult one because like I said, it sort of seems that gambling is such an accepted part of life and it's regulated as an activity that's that you're allowed to do. It's not it's not illegal. And it you know, it generates a lot of money for various states and territories. So it's it's kind of accepted, I think. So because of that, it's quite difficult to broach the subject with somebody. But I think generally guidance that we would give people would be treated very gently. There's a lot of shame and stigma associated with gambling issues. For example, in my own practice and the people that I see in counseling, quite often people are more likely to disclose a mental health issue or a drug and alcohol issue than they will the gambling issue. So that's partly because of the stigma associated with it because it's such a sort of readily accepted activity. So in terms of broaching the subject with somebody, then quite often it's helpful to maybe talk about somebody else. So, you know, to sort of seeing all of you heard about, you know, so-and-so or my friend who they've got a gambling problem and their partner found out and isn't that terrible? And, you know, isn't that something that's I mean, I hope we would be able to talk about that. Also, just making the person that we are making your partner aware that that you're not going to judge them, you know, that it's something that actually it's not just about the individual. And I think that's the difficulty that we've had. And we've talked about gambling over the years, as it's always been, about an individual choice when actually it's it's a part of an addiction. And addiction doesn't mean that you have no individual choice at all. But it does mean that there's a lot more going on from a sort of brain perspective. There's a whole lot sort of there's a lot of things triggering in your brain that sometimes you don't feel you have control of. So I think just been aware maybe when somebody if you suspect a partner or a close friend is gambling too much, being aware maybe of some of those things, like the secretiveness, like this, of poor communication and conflict and then maybe not asking them at those times and maybe waiting until a time when they're a little bit less triggered or aroused in terms of their gambling addiction. So, yeah, just giving them a bit of space and making sure that they know that you're not going to judge them and sometimes doing that sort through sort of third-person stories. [00:15:49][142.0]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:15:50] Thank you so much, Tony, for everything that you are discussing. We are just going to take a break now to listen to these words from our sponsors. And when we come back, we'll hear more from Tony. [00:16:00][9.5]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:17:01] For that person that's in the relationship and they're experiencing what they might think is a negative impacts from gambling, and you've given us some signs already about what are the red flags that lead to that might be a sign that gambling is having a negative impact. What would you recommend for the person that is experiencing it directly? What should they be looking out for if someone is listening and thinking, or am I just normal doing a normal amount of gambling? You know, I gamble just as much as my friends. [00:17:31][30.5]
Tony Clarkson: [00:17:33] There are a few things that people can do. I mean, there's a helpline that people can call and talk through their own experience, and it's totally confidential. That's the Gamblers Gambling Helpline, which is one hundred eight five-eight. And that's also available for people who aren't the gamblers or we call them affected others. So basically and that could be a part that it could be a parent, a child, another family member, but they can talk through. Look, from a gambling perspective, is this normal? Is this some are spending this amount of money? Is this normal on the website? There's a whole lot of self-help tools that people can go through. They can there's a calculator that people can put in there, sort of their spending and the number of times the gamble. And it will sort of comparing you to the kind of national average. And then it'll give you an idea of maybe something's not right here and we're working on an app at the moment. So, unfortunately, as a councilor, the last resort, people, people don't want to go and see councilors. Generally, they you know, don't want to talk about their feelings. They want to do everything they possibly can first, whether that's self-help or whether that's speaking to another person. There's not a councilor. Then what we've tried to do is replicate that experience in an app and so will be available later this year where people can actually go in and test like, is this normal? Is this the right sort of a mode of activity for so, you know, someone who's gambling normally and that that's something that applies for the full effect of others as well? So for a partner, they can also use that line. They can call. We've also got youthfully so the use lines for people up to the age of 25, and that's one hundred to six, two, three, seven, six. And that's the same thing. It's exactly the same as 24/7. It's free and people can phone up and basically just bone some ideas off the of the mental health professional or the counselor on the other end of the line and say, look, this is what's going on for me. Is this something that you can help with? Can you give me some coping strategies right now? Because quite often they can do that on the phone right away and or is there somewhere you can send me on to? And if they said you want to refer you on to whatever gambling help services, and that's those I mean, those that are all over the state and they are free, they're completely free. You can see somebody for an unlimited number of sessions and talk about gambling and all the other issues that affected it. [00:19:46][133.6]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:19:47] Great. And I suppose just to put things into perspective for our audience, are you able to provide some examples of worst-case scenarios of how bad this can get or how this can really be a big problem? [00:20:00][12.8]
Tony Clarkson: [00:20:00] Yes. Yeah, sure. So to look, I can give you some numbers from a study that we've done. And I can also just give you some sort of, I suppose, experiences of obviously the identified. But people who come to counseling, it can be as mild as, you know, that you're not able to do something that you would normally do. For example, go to the cinema once a week or go for a meal or whatever, right along with the sort of continuum of harm. It can be as bad as attempted suicide or even completed suicide. And so we've been I've had a number of clients in counseling who have talked about feelings of suicide, feelings of self-harm. There's a whole lot of other issues that are associated with gambling. So like I was saying earlier about people not being identified as one thing that we sort of you know, we're a constellation of different things and there are a whole lot of other issues associated with gambling. So mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, family violence issues, and even divorce or separation, so people can get in so deep that the, for example, other clients see to me that they weren't sure quite how much they lost over the period of five years. It could be somewhere between two million and five million. And that's really just regenerating the money that they've lost and putting it back in and trying to chase the losses, which is quite common. We did a study in twenty seventeen called The Social Costs of Gambling in Victoria and Study. And that estimated that just in the state of Victoria over the course of one year, the cost of gambling to the community was seven billion dollars and the biggest cost was in family and relationships. So it was broken down. So financial costs and emotional distress and costs to the government and things of that. But the largest single cost was two point two billion, and that's to family and relationships. And that's sort breaks down like, you know, for example, divorce and separation. The cost of that was about 24 million dollars. Emotional, the cost of divorce, the separation just to the gambler was over 100 million. The emotional. The cost of divorce or separation to a partner was about six hundred and seventeen million, and that's the way that that's calculated as it is through the emotional distress that that course causes people. And so all of those other issues I was talking about, like drug and alcohol issues, are mental health issues. People often develop them as a result of gambling issues or vice versa. If your partner was gambling, then quite often if you can't talk about it with them, then that's one of the things that people rely on as well. I'll go and have a glass of wine with my friends or I'll withdraw into myself and not, you know, sort of internalizing some of the conflicts that are going on in my relationship and lose those coping strategies. All have costs and are sort of estimated in this report. So seven billion was the number they came up with, which is pretty shocking, I think. [00:22:49][168.5]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:22:49] Yeah, it's crazy. It's funny because when I've had conversations with people about what I'm doing or whether they invest, sometimes they might say are investing on the stock market is just like gambling. Do you have an opinion on that? [00:23:04][15.0]
Tony Clarkson: [00:23:05] Look, I think it's obvious it depends on the individual circumstance. I can only speak personally. My dad died of it by 2015 and just a year or so before he died, he actually wasn't particularly wealthy but did have a lot of money. But he spent quite a bit of money invested in sales and the language that he used to use. And he was never a gambler, but the language he used to use was taken a punt or having a gamble may pay off. It might not. I think generally that, you know if you look at sort of terminology around gambling and you look at definitions of gambling, that anything where there is uncertainty about the outcome but which carries a possibility of a financial gain or loss. And then that kind of comes under the banner of gambling, essentially. So personally, I would say yes, I would say that investing in the stock market is gambling because, despite the fact that you may feel that you know what the outcome will be, that's often why hearing counseling from people stand at a racetrack or holding a lottery ticket in the hand or choosing their favorite pokie machine on a Tuesday night in the particular venue that like to go to that, they feel that they have some form of control or understanding over what the outcome will be. And then sometimes that does happen. But I think it's important to remember that most gambling is a game of chance and the stock market can't really be controlled by individuals other than, you know, particularly wealthy individuals that most of us don't have any contact with. But, you know, your average Joe, I think, really doesn't have much influence over whether or not Lockheed Martin stocks plummet or rise. So for me, it does feel like a bit of a punt and it feels like a form of gambling. I've had clients who've come to me because of stock market gambling. Well, they've defined a stock market gambling. And they've come to me saying, look, I have a gambling issue. And that's been the issue they've had is just stock market. [00:25:07][122.2]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:25:08] Yeah, I identify with that a lot because since I've started investing, I really look forward to getting my pay, come in and then take it, take a certain amount of that out. And sometimes I'm tempted to put a bit more in or if a stock is going well, I just want to put a bit more money in. It is just an interesting it's an interesting angle. I think that, as you say, you don't have control over the outcome. So how is it different? I think what the equity team might say is that there are certain ways of investing that are a bit safer. I like investing in ETFs or whole index shares [00:25:45][36.9]
Tony Clarkson: [00:25:46] with stock markets. I think it would be the same advice that I would give to anybody. It would be don't spend more or gamble more than you can afford to lose. That's the main piece of advice you can give to anybody, whether they're spending money on footy tipping or whether they're spending money on go to the races. Melbourne Cup day or going down to the pokies or whatever casino. It's the same with investing in the stock market. If you invest more than you actually are comfortable with losing, then yeah, that's maybe where you're going wrong. [00:26:20][34.5]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:26:21] Yeah, that's the answer, isn't it? Thanks so much, Tony, for coming on the show and speaking so openly to us, particularly about your family and your personal situation. I always find it really interesting and adds a level of depth and understanding to our conversations when guests speak openly and particularly when they refer back to their family. So thanks a lot for that, Tony. So some of the signs that you can look for if you think that investing or gambling is becoming an addiction, is if there's missing money or household valuables going missing, you can look for these signs in your partner. If you're borrowing money, so you're taking on debt or using money that's loaned, so credit cards, having multiple loans, unpaid bills, lack of food and household essentials, withdrawing from family or work, changes in personality or mood, conflict with others. And this is from House Direct to government Australian Government website. Look, I personally have an experience that with investing in shares, but there was a point where I was like, OK, maybe I can just cut back a bit and have more of a buffer just to be responsible and have you know, I think maybe the pandemic did really put things in perspective. Mayos like, look, I might not have a job next week, you know, thankfully. And luckily I came through that, employed the I think it's really important to have a buffer emergency saving somewhere. So and so [00:27:51][89.4]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:27:51] while you're looking out for gambling addiction in your partner and the signs of that, we have covered through what signs you can look for in someone else, but not really within yourself. [00:27:59][8.1]
Zoe Moorhead: [00:28:00] Some of the signs that you can look for in yourself, they're very similar signs. But from this perspective that you're looking at yourself and thinking, do I have a gambling addiction? Am I investing to the point where it's becoming unhealthy? I'm gambling at a tab or on the footy or at the races too much. Some of the signs are constant thoughts about gambling, irritability or restlessness if you try to stop gambling. So pulling away from it and seeing how you respond might be a good way to check repeated or unsuccessful attempts to stop Iranian gambling. Maybe if someone in your family or a loved one reaches out to you and suggests that maybe that's a concern that they have. I would listen to them carefully. Obviously, lying or covering up using gambling as a coping mechanism. So that goes back to one of the first episodes that we had about red flags and using unhealthy methods as a way to cope with other feelings or experiences in your life. I'm sure there's a lot more, but that's just some aspects that you can think of to think I'm listening to this. Maybe I do have a gambling problem and to know that in Australia it's very, very common. So it's not unlikely that you know someone or you are someone who does gamble quite a bit [00:29:22][82.1]
Carmel Moorhead: [00:29:23] as we've covered off some sort of science you can look out for if you if this is you or you've got someone in your life that is sort of showing these signs, then there are a few people you can reach out to. And so one of these people is Gamblers Help, which you can get at eight hundred eight five eight. Or you can reach out to Lifeline at 13, 11, 14 or beyond blue at thirteen hundred two, two, four, six, three. That's it for this episode of Mapei Love, we hope you learned a little bit more about what gambling looks like, but if this episode brought up anything for you that you'd like to discuss with us, feel free to reach out to us at NPR at equity rates dot com, and you can write and review us on whatever platform you are listening to your podcast on. Thanks so much. Bye bye [00:29:23][0.0]