When I first heard the phrase “the tradie’s laptop” as a way to describe pokie machines, I laughed. But, after a minute, it got me thinking. Why are we so ready to accept the fact that a lot of tradies struggle with gambling problems? Especially when it is a lifestyle issue that tends to correlate strongly with poor mental health and either cause or exacerbate addiction issues, financial stress, anxiety and can contribute to antisocial behaviour and depression.
Obviously, not all tradies are plungers and it’s definitely possible to gamble responsibly and in moderation. But, it’s time that we admit that we have a problem with the way we talk about gambling in our community. We are now at a point where we have created a culture that has conditioned us to believe gambling is one of the only ways we can socialise. In reality, this means that having a spin at the pub every Friday night can quickly turn into a toxic habit, especially when we continue to perpetuate the idea amongst out co-workers and mates that this might be the week that you win big.
You know how we all know a bloke that insists he would have been playing for the Wallabies if it wasn’t for that pesky knee injury that happened when he was 18? Yeah, well he’s the same as the guy that swears that his old site manager’s, brother’s apprentice won $50k one weekend a couple of years ago - it’s likely that the story has been exaggerated over time to sound a little bit more exciting.
Stories like these help maintain the idea that we are all just one stroke of good or bad luck away from getting everything we ever wanted or from having our dreams ruined. Our co-workers and mates don’t mean any harm with these yarns. But when you think about it, there really can’t be that many people who missed out on playing first grade rugby because if there was, the competition in the social league would be a lot better. Besides, there would be far fewer apprentices needing to borrow money for smokes if it was that common to win $50k on a Friday night.
It is easy to believe that sharing these farfetched, third-hand anecdotes with our mates is just a bit of harmless fun, in fact it probably gives them a bit of hope to insinuate that by feeding one more fifty into the pokies, they’re bound to win. But, the real impact of these stories is that they are used as tools to justify toxic gambling habits.
For me, a lot of the rhetoric around gambling culture is actually pretty simple and it all comes back to every mum’s favourite saying. Would you do something stupid if your friend did it or someone else told you to? At one point I might have answered yes, but at this point I’d hope that we would all answer no.
So, let’s stop perpetuating the idea that at some point we will all beat the house and that gambling is akin to some kind of investment. More importantly, let’s stop enabling each other with empty promises of only spending a certain amount of money and staying for a little bit because in the end the big pokie win is as real as Santa Claus.