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Nathan Hindmarsh’s Problem Gambling Messages Receive Criticism

Tue, Aug 13, 10:55pm by Kevin Pitstock

ClubsafeNathan Hindmarsh is featured on a radio spot and a video message urging problem gamblers to get help through a program called ClubSafe. The former captain of the Parramatta Eels is talking about his own gambling addiction, which he says lasted 7 years.

In these messages, Hindmarsh described himself as “angry, frustrated, and disappointed” by his former conduct, which he implied took him those seven years to reach out to someone for help.

In the recordings, Nathan Hindmarsh suggests people with obsessive gambling habits should talk to someone in their immediate circle or with a counsellor. He also points to the local ClubSafe chapter, which he says can help people deal with their gambling habits.

Nathan Hindmarsh Speaks to Problem Gamblers

In one of his spots, Nathan Hindmarsh says, “Only 15% of problem gamblers seek help and that worries me.”

Later in the same message, he asks problem gamblers to get help, suggesting that these gamblers should go through the self-exclusion process to ban themselves from clubs. He explains what self-exclusion is: the ability to ban oneself from club pokies for 6 months, 12 months, or longer.

As Hindmarsh continues in a straightforward and honest manner, he says, “So if you’ve even got a small doubt that you’re gambling too much, or it just isn’t fun anymore, talk to someone: a family member, a mate, or even a counsellor.”

These seem to be good public spots which are likely to reach a certain amount of gambling addicts. If these were public service announcements or were sponsored by a counselling agency, it’s hard to imagine these messages receiving a bit of criticism. Because they are sponsored by NSW Club, an industry association which represents the clubs and pubs of New South Wales, these spots are getting criticism as some kind of trick by the Australian gambling industry.

Criticism for “Insidious” Ads

A recent op-ed piece in The Conversation described the Nathan Hindmarsh problem gambling promotions as “insidious”. The point of the op-ed by Ari Mattes isn’t to criticize Nathan Hindmarsh, but to call out the organisation “NSW Club” for having questionable motives in airing the spots. Special offense was taken with the use of the word “normal”, because the writer suggested problem gamblers cannot play a normal amount–they must quit entirely.

After hearing the radio message, it’s hard to say exactly what Nathan Hindmarsh is discussing when he speaks of normalcy: whether it’s being a normal gambler again or a normal, average person again. One can tell from listening to the radio spots that Nathan Hindmarsh is speaking off the cuff and, while he’s reading from a cue card, Hindmarsh’s words are written from the heart, not by NSW Club.

When he says it’s good to be normal, Hindmarsh is heard extemporising, “It might not be the right word to use.” Those aren’t the words a public relations person would have chosen, unless they were downright Machiavellian in their craftiness.

The whole set of audio sounds remarkably honest. It’s obvious that Nathan Hindmarsh is speaking with passion about a process he’s undergone himself. It also appears he’s speaking on behalf of a service which has helped him in his own past troubles. If one were being insidious, the quote above would have been further edited before placed on the radio.

Do Clubs Want Gambling Addiction?

This same opinion piece in The Conversation described the radio spot as a commercial for Club NSW. The upshot of the article is that an association of clubs couldn’t possibly want to stop problem gambling, because these clubs make a significant amount of money from pokies. They want as much money as possible, so they’re being disingenuous in promoting ClubSafe.

This is reading too much into the motives of a club owners’ organization. At the end of the day, this is by-and-large a collection of small business owners. Many small business owners don’t want unlimited profits. They want stability so that they can plan for the future. Sure, they don’t want to get rid of the pokies in their establishments. But it’s logical for a group of business people wanting stability to try to curtail problems which might affect their future business prospects.

An Alternative Explanation

In every generation, some business leaders want to liberalize regulations, providing greater transparency and more financial stability for their industry. These people might do this for “selfish” reasons, because they want to know future conditions and thus make sounder judgments based on solid predictions of where their industry is going.

It’s natural for business people to see too many government regulations as something which should be avoided. In one industry after another, many leaders want to curtail the worst abuses of their peers in order to keep the politicians out of their business. It’s the difference in being short-sighted and being far-sighted. In the old days, people called it enlightened self-interest.

We don’t live in a black and white world where all club owners exist to prey on their customers. Certainly, NSW Club has selfish motives in promoting ClubSafe. Also, a certain part of their ClubSafe program relates to public relations. But when ClubSafe helps people like Nathan Hindmarsh, it’s not a bad thing for NSW Club to get the word out. We’d argue these aren’t insidious commercials in an attempt to lure more problem gamblers into a false sense of normalcy, but an example where social conscience and economic interests coincide.


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