Home » More young people than ever have harmful relationships with gambling. But there’s little support

More young people than ever have harmful relationships with gambling. But there’s little support

More young people than ever have harmful relationships with gambling. But there’s little support

Luke Mead was in year 11 when he was exposed to gambling, watching friends place horse racing and football bets on their phones during class.

“We’re supposed to be learning about mathematics, and your mates are gambling because that’s what they’re being conditioned to do,” he said. 

Some were 18, but many logged in under siblings’ accounts or with fake identification.

Having a punt on the pokies or placing a few harmless bets on an app is seen as a rite of passage as Australians get older, Luke said.

But when he watched someone he cared for lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, he realised the impact of pokies and online betting on young Australians.

“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“I spent a lot of time with them and to see their money go down the drain like that was extremely challenging.”

Luke realised something needed to be done as gambling became more accessible to young Australians through social media advertising and betting apps.

The Gambling Research Centre’s latest study revealed two in three participants who regularly bet online on sports were classified as being at risk of gambling harm, with 18 to 34-year-olds at the highest risk.

Luke said his parents’ generation had to at least leave the house to gamble.

“But my generation has a casino in their pocket.”

Lack of support

After looking into support, he realised how little there is out there, particularly for young people.

“There are hotlines, but how many young people are going to call?” he said.

A 2022 Gambling Research Centre study also found there was a low rate of help-seeking for gambling-related problems among regular online gamblers.

“If you can access an app for betting in 1.5 seconds, that’s how quickly you need to be able to access support,” Luke said.

“If you’ve got a gambling addiction, you’re often too scared to ask for help or even to admit that you need help.

“So having something that is minimally invasive and that you can have in your phone, it’s private and anonymous, could really help.”

So he invented an app, Zero gamble.

Still in the testing phase, but available online, it provides tools, tips and programs aimed at helping users manage their gambling urges and remain on the path to recovery.

Luke in a business shirt and pants presenting

Luke Mead is part of this year’s ABC Trailblazers program. (ABC)

“If you go see someone for some gambling help they might make you fill out a self-assessment or set some paper goals, and I’ve basically taken those paper tools and digitalised them so you can do them on your phone, then share with your psychologist or GP and track your use,” he said.

“I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just digitalising existing supports and making it easier to access.”

He said the tool is crucial for those living in regions with limited, in-person services.

Early introduction

Dr Hannah Pitt researches the impact of the gambling industry on children and young people at Deakin University.

She said young people are being exposed to gambling almost everywhere they look.