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Supporting young people to know the score about gambling harm

A young woman with glasses and a colourful lanyard stands confidently in front of a vibrant wall.

Gambler’s Help Community Engagement Practitioner Simran Pande

By Lisa Clausen

On a recent morning in Melbourne’s east, 19 sports-loving teenagers gathered in a SEDA College Sports Development Program classroom to learn about the risks associated with gambling. To humanise the message, the students also heard an affecting personal story of gambling harm and eventual recovery.

Helping young people navigate a world in which gambling has never been more heavily advertised, more accessible and more seductive is the focus of Be Ahead of the Game, a school education program about gambling and gaming offered by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

The Know the Score: understanding the risks of gambling workshop run for these Year 11 and 12 students is one of several interactive Be Ahead of the Game sessions.

Knowing the warning signs of gambling harm

Led by Gambler’s Help Community Engagement Practitioner Simran Pande, the students discussed what gambling looks like to them in daily life (online betting, horse racing, TAB and casinos), and the way ads make gambling seem normal and risk free in a society where it is constantly on offer.

Some of these insights clearly surprised the group – one student guessed there were 20 gambling ads aired in Australia every day; Simran told the classroom the staggering figure was closer to 900.

… one student guessed there were 20 gambling ads aired in Australia every day.

The accelerating dominance of online betting and the enormous surge in sports betting losses in recent years were also discussed, along with the many types of harms gambling can cause, from mental health issues to relationship breakdowns and financial debt.

Learning from lived experience

The theoretical was made real for the students when Fred Rubinstein, a member of the Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee, generously shared with them his own story of experiencing, and surviving, many years of gambling harm.

The classroom was silent as Fred told his story, which saw him spiral from a sports-obsessed Year 9 student gambling on soccer matches into regular gambling, only to lose a large inheritance.

The turning point came when his mother told him she was ready to press charges.

‘People ask me why wasn’t that rock bottom, when I lost all of that,’ Fred told the students. ‘I lost $220,000 but I still believed my good luck was coming and that I was smarter than the system.

‘So I kept going – borrowing from friends and stealing from my mum so I could gamble.’

Now 27, Fred stopped gambling seven years ago with enormous support from his family and psychiatrist. The turning point came when his mother told him she was ready to press charges.

‘That was my rock bottom,’ Fred told the SEDA College students. ‘That was the day I decided to change. It wasn’t the last day I gambled – but it was the first day I decided to invest in my recovery.’

Loving sport in a healthy way

Fred has turned his passion for sport and winning away from betting and into a rewarding career as a full-time soccer coach.

‘I realised I could never get the win I wanted in sport through gambling,’ he told the students. ‘I could never get the sense of self-worth through gambling that I get through my job.’

Some students asked Fred about the extent of his financial losses and his complex path to recovery. There was also a discussion about the many resources available for helping friends or family members who might struggle with gambling.

‘I realised I could never get the win I wanted in sport through gambling.’
- Fred Rubinstein

As the session’s facilitator, Simran believes exposing young people to lived experience of gambling harm as part of the face-to-face session is a powerful way of getting them to analyse the risks and influence of sports betting and advertising.

‘Face-to-face sessions with young people in a gambling-saturated environment provide invaluable opportunities to educate, empower, and support individuals in making safe and informed decisions,’ she says.

‘… retelling of lived experience helps create empathy and understanding.’
- Simran Pande

‘Especially when working with young people, I find that retelling of lived experience helps create empathy and understanding. It allows people to walk in someone else's shoes, gaining insight into their challenges, and triumphs.

‘It is also a great way to portray the complexities of gambling, with stories portraying that harms can also stem from being an 'affected other'.

Be Ahead of the Game offers a range of sessions and resources, including:

  • free one-hour information sessions
  • free curriculum-aligned teaching resources for upper primary to senior secondary students
  • a gambling policy template for schools
  • articles for school newsletters
  • information and resources for parents and carers to support young people.

You can learn more about the program and book a session for your school at

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