Australians are expected to spend $60.6 million in betting on tomorrow’s Melbourne Cup, an increase of 7.5 per cent since last year according to market researchers IBISWorld. The majority of bets will still be placed in person at the TAB, but it is especially significant that mobile betting is increasing rapidly, with more Australians using smartphone betting apps.
It is no coincidence that more betting and higher losses coincide with the convenience of betting apps and other online means of placing bets. The traditional walk to the local TAB and the requirement of having to wait in the queue acted as a restraint on betting that amounted to pre-commitment.
In the past, punters using the TAB needed to decide how much their day’s wager would be before they reached the end of the queue, for it is unlikely that they would be motivated to return to queue again to top up their betting. But online betting enables continual betting until the running of the race. It is similar to the way poker machines are used. Some gamblers will stop only after their bank account has been emptied.
Pre-commitment, along with $1 maximum bets, is the central platform of the compromise National Gambling Reform Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives last week. It forces gambling venues to offer voluntary – rather than mandatory – pre-commitment by the end of 2016. Anti-gambling campaigners are taking the view that voluntary pre-commitment is better than nothing.
Pre-commitment is the principle that allows us to control our impulsive behaviours. 500 years ago, it was used by the Jesuits’ founder St Ignatius Loyola when he formulated his Rules for Eating. His idea was that you plan what you’re going to eat for the next meal directly after the previous meal, or at another time when you’re not hungry. In this way, rationality rather than impulse controls your eating habits.
Excessive consumption of anything – especially gambling ‘products’ – destroys human well-being. We all need a variety of supports to enable us to behave rationally and avoid the excess that ad hoc behaviour leads to. These days, that means not just encouragement from those around us, but the development of technology that is geared to enable us to act rationally and not designed to exploit our weaknesses.