Chinese Triads
(Image: Unsplash/ Michał Parzuchowski)

The Australian economy is in unprecedented flux, Australian society will never be the same — and yet I turned on the football the other night and what did I see? Gambling ads.

The same smiling idiots are back, trying to part me from my money.

What has all this change been for if we can’t get rid of the things we hate? Australia is losing its high-street shops, its pubs, many of its beloved cafes. Holes are left where local businesses stood. But we continue to endure an industry that is a parasite?

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We have JobKeeper. JobSeeker. A JobMaker scheme. What we need is “JobEnder”, a government scheme that wades into our worst industries and says: “You know what? We didn’t miss you in lockdown. Pack up.”

Sports betting is the first industry I’d close. All those expensively shot ads for betting companies that simply reek of the Cayman Islands? Gone.

The sports betting industry was a $1 billion industry in 2018-19 but supports few jobs. There’s a handful of people who run the tabulating computers, and a large swathe of young marketing men with artfully parted hair and glowing skin. Give them all the JobEnder. They’ll be fine.

Sports betting is, at its worst, simply a tax on addiction, a way to shuffle money from financially disadvantaged gamblers to morally disadvantaged owners.

And many sports gamblers are financially disadvantaged. One of the risks for problem gambling is the ability to bet continuously. It’s why pokies are bad but the once-a-year Melbourne Cup sweep isn’t. Online sports betting allows continuous betting.

The apps are always there, day and night, and there’s always a contest going on somewhere, some outcome, or in-game activity (e.g. “first goal”) to flutter on. For a problem gambler, a sports betting app is a terrible thing to have in your pocket.

Sports betting is not just bad for betters. It risks corrupting team sports. Do we want our football codes to go the way of horse racing? Do we want these beautiful games to be inseparable from skulduggery and colourful identities? Heck no. JobEnder now!

While we’re putting gambling companies to the sword, it’s high time to do something about pokies. Australians put $149 billion through them each year, which turns into $12 billion in revenue for the companies.

Pokies have been closed during lockdown and it has reportedly been a beautiful thing for pokie addicts. The ABC has a great series on problem gamblers who’ve been able to break their addiction during the past few months.

I can have a gentle flutter on the pokies, $3 a time, once a year, but I’m not the customer the pokies are after. They make $1292 on average per player, and even that average is not representative of the small share of players who lose far more.

I cannot recommend JobEnder highly enough for the poker machine moguls. Kick them to the kerb. Pubs and clubs can go back to making money from schnitzels and schooners.

JobEnder is a fantasy, of course, but the idea is important: we control our own destiny. That this year has taught us is that everything is up for grabs. Nothing that hitherto seemed permanent is. Everything is contingent on our desire to keep it going.

We can make change we never dreamed of, transform our country, and emerge from the horror of 2020 into a better community.

There are other parts of the Australian economy screaming out for JobEnder. Brown-coal miners. Job service providers. Vocational education scammers. Patent trolls and tax planners and Instagram influencers.

Let’s give them the JobEnder — or something like it — as soon as possible.

Which industries do you think need JobEnder? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey‘s Your Say column.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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