Archaeological evidence points to gambling being present in almost every human society throughout history. WAYNE GREGSON

Archaeological evidence points to gambling being present in almost every human society throughout history.

There are all sorts of bits and bobs which hint at ancient games of chance: bundles of sticks, wooden markers, marks on horn and bits of bone.

But can there ever have been a time when it was so widespread, so “in your face”? It has been one of the top growth industries of the digital age and it’s no surprise that a lot of people are getting worried about it.

I’ve long felt that the curious thing about gambling is that intellectually we know we won’t win in the long run. You won’t win the lottery. You won’t beat the bookies. You won’t triumph over the pokies and you certainly won’t benefit from online gambling. It is clearly a process in which money is redistributed from a comparatively poorer group to a wealthy group.

We know all this. Yet …

The trouble is that one description of gambling is that it’s selling hope. And who needs hope more, the rich or the poor? The trouble is that while hope may well spring eternal, the money doesn’t.

The reason I mention this today is that old Bushwhacked just did a not very scientific study.

At random, I looked at 50 photographs of bookmaker’s rings and poker machine players on Google Images.

One showed the punter smiling. Just one. The rest were either neutral or quite glum.

Then, we called up images of advertisements for bookmakers and poker machine establishments. All showed the punters laughing hugely, celebrating, having a grand old time with their pals and usually impeccably dressed.

They’re not just selling hope, they’re fabricating it.

TV ads for gambling show mates having a back-slapping time on the couch, while punting non-stop on their phones, or being told they can instantly improve their odds of winning.

“If your third horse doesn’t come better than fifth and it’s a Tuesday in March with the temperature between 15 and 25, we’ll double your money …”

And often the people presenting these fictional situations are portrayed in smart business suits, with $60 haircuts and $6000 teeth. Smiling, smiling, smiling.

We will never live in a society without gambling. History shows us that. But surely, we can live in a society which stops mass marketing this like honey-coated balls of horse poop?

Statistically, the biggest gambling growth area here has been sports betting, which trebled in Victoria between 2009 and 2016. Can you guess why?

Meanwhile, poker machines continue to gnaw into our community and Bendigo now loses around $50 million a year down their greedy slots.

That’s equivalent to the value of 160 average Bendigo homes. Every year.

Or 97,465 average Bendigo individual weekly incomes. Every year.

You don’t see those figures in the glitzy sports ads on TV.

The gambling industry has its own version of “alternative facts”. There’s an online gaming “authority” in the US which lists reasons why gambling can be good for you.

Better social interaction, better decision making, and faster thinking were among them. But the one which struck me as the most odd was better mental mathematics skills.

Think about it.

WAYNE GREGSON