Former AFL star and high-profile reformed gambling addict David Schwarz wants government action on betting ads.
Schwarz has warned of a rapidly-growing gambling problem among AFL players, and had spoken to about 30 current players with serious gambling issues.
He blew about $5 million because of gambling during his career with the Melbourne Football Club, but has not laid a bet for a decade.
The former Demons key forward will soon front a revamped AFL program that aims to help players who are problem gamblers.
“I absolutely agree there is far too much advertising,” he told SEN radio on Tuesday.
“But while it’s here and while it’s not legislated against, we have to deal with it as best we can.
“What we have to do is put pressure on governments to minimise advertising to the appropriate times, so the kids aren’t as influenced.”
Schwarz added that it would be counter-productive to put too many legal curbs on gambling.
He said 99 per cent of people gambled responsibly and it remains an individual choice.
“I understand that the gambling ads make up a big percentage of SEN, they make up a big percentage of the AFL,” he said.
“But the last thing we want to do is drive betting underground.
“We need to have it regulated, so we can keep on top of irregular betting patterns.”
Schwarz said a key for the growing betting problem among AFL players is to drum the message into them right from when they join the TAC Cup under-18 competition.
“When they get into the system, players need to understand the pitfalls – understand the things that can go wrong and how quickly it can escalate,” Schwarz said.
“It’s a really funny one, gambling, and people go `why don’t you just stop?’.
“But you can’t smell it, you can’t see it – it’s a little hidden thing that sneaks up on a lot of people. ”
He said the last couple of years in particular, the increase of players and player managers and clubs who are needing help and advice on how to help their players out, has been a “real concern”.
Schwarz said it was no surprise that gambling would be an issue among AFL players.
“These are young men who hit the key demographic for a lot of the problems out there,” he said.
“Many of them are young, single, they earn good money, they have a lot of spare time. ”
“So if you were to put together the perfect specimen for someone who might fall into a bit of strife, professional athletes hit the category most.
“They’re risk takers, they’re adrenaline junkies, they like the thrill.”
But he added, that if problem gamblers receive the right help, they can stop.
Schwarz said it was probably easier for AFL players to stop gambling, because they had club support around them.
“We have some great stories – players who have been right on the depths of despair,” he said.
“Their financial position was in dire straits and they’ve turned it all around.
“They’ve turned it around really quickly.”