I picked up the phone at my financial counselling office. It was a woman, breathing very heavily:
“I need to speak to a gambling counsellor.”
“Do you have a gambling problem?” I asked.
“No, it’s not for me. I’m not that stupid. It’s for my idiot husband.”
Turns out she’d just caught her husband of almost 20 years gambling on his phone.
He broke down in tears and admitted to her that he’d been gambling heavily for the past five years.
“How much has he lost?” I asked.
“Four thousand dollars”, she said bitterly.
“As in … total? That’s it!? Are you sure?” I asked, with both my eyebrows fully cocked.
“Yes, I am sure. I told him, “If you’re lying to me, I’ll cut your nuts off!”
Then again, if my wife had threatened me with that, I’d have low-balled her too.
(Pardon the pun.)
Look, I have no doubt this poor woman was in shock and denial.
And I also have no doubt that her husband’s losses would rise as she put down her butcher’s knife.
Here’s a ballpark of what he may end up fessing up to, courtesy of Graham, a real-life case study from Financial Counselling Australia:
Graham thought he and his wife were tracking along nicely. His wife enjoyed the occasional ‘flutter’ on the weekend. Besides, she couldn’t do too much damage — she only earnt $672 a week.
Then he got flattened when she confessed to running up $130,000 in debt.
They may well lose their home.
You probably know that we Aussies are the biggest punters on the planet … but you may not appreciate that the biggest losers are the families of gamblers.
And the winners?
There are three:
The gambling companies (obviously). The governments (tax revenue). And … the banks.
You see, credit cards used for gambling are a huge money spinner because gambling is a cash advance, which attracts a higher interest rate, charged from day one.
Last month Financial Counselling Australia called on the Australian Banking Association to follow the lead of the UK, which last month banned credit cards being used for gambling.
A handful of smaller Aussie banks have already done so, but none of the big four banks have yet … though they say they’re “considering it”.
Thankfully, self-isolation has meant that with the casinos and pokie-dens closed, we’re no longer gambling.
Aussie spending on online betting increased a massive 142% in the last week of April compared to a normal week, according to analytics group AlphaBeta.
It’s high time the big banks put their nuts on the line and banned credit cards being used for gambling.
Do it for Graham.
Do it for my ballsy client.
Do it for every kid who has a parent afflicted with this terrible disease.
Tread Your Own Path!