From Gambol to Gamble and Back Again

I have been thinking about gambling and drinking recently.
Not as personal life choice but …
I have been wondering what I can do to support initiatives that mitigate the effects of both activities.
I believe profoundly in the cultural benefits of play and note that ‘to gambol’ is ‘to jump about in play’.
There has been considerable debate in Australia about the growing presence of betting messages on televised sporting events. This involves a different kind of ‘gamble’.
At a press conference on the 27 May held to report events at the COAG Select Council on Gambling, Stephen Conroy said:

… all of the Ministers have agreed that we should put forward proposals, ultimately possibly legislation, to reduce and control the promotion of in-game betting. There’s a very insidious culture starting to develop that is targeting the vulnerable and the young as they’re attending sporting events, as they’re watching on television sporting events, and all Ministers felt that this was a very necessary step for the Commonwealth to take.
There are a variety of issues that we will seek to have discussions with the industry about, to discuss the scope of this. And all Ministers also agreed the racing industry should be exempt from this process as the betting goes to the whole integrity of what the racing industry does, how it raises it funds, how it provides its money. So racing is exempt and all Ministers were very in agreement on that. So we’re going to give the broadcasting industry twelve months to resolve these issues, to introduce self-regulation. And if they are not able to or are unwilling to, we will be introducing legislation dated from today, the start date will be today, to reduce and control the promotion of live betting odds.

Three days later (30 May) DrinkWiseAustralia announced the establishment of a partnership with the Sport Australia Hall of Fame to develop the Under Your Influence campaign “that picks up on the crucial role parents and other influential adults play as role models”. The campaign has seven sporting ambassadors and more information about John Bertrand, Robert de Castella, Liz Ellis, Mike McKay, Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Andrew Rochford, and Sue Stanley’s participation can be found here.
I think both announcements are very important. Some sports receive significant income from gambling and alcohol sponsorship. Given the importance attached to sport as a character-building activity and its potential to embody moral education, I believe that any attempt to bring the gambol back into play is to be welcomed.
The alternative is to accept that some play has become display and spectacle and to accept a completely different rationale for sporting behaviour. If we do accept the display and spectacle argument and move to a different form of activity then, as Norbert Elias suggested in The Civilizing Process, societies must be vigilant about the thresholds to repugnance that characterise them.
This post was written on International Children’s Day. It is interesting to note that Wikipedia has the following entry for Australia: “Children’s Day is the second Sunday in July, but is not widely known or celebrated”.
Photo Credit
Boys playing basketball outside


  1. Nice Keith
    In the UK major betting agencies such as Betfair, Ladbrokes and Bet365 contribute to a single fund for national sports to address corruption and illegal gambling. While this goes some way there is little that can be done to address offshore online gambling. The integrity issues here are worth a debate – what are the motivations?

    • Peter
      I think national lotteries raise a very interesting issue around moral hazard. They are presented as a way of funding public good. I have been wondering about a voluntary levy so that we have an invitation to support play, games and sport.
      I am profoundly interested in a satiable sport.


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