Anti Gambling Group Claims that Holiday Bingo Games are ‘Grooming’ Kids for Gambling

Earlier in the year some Australian politicians were up in arms about children’s bingo games held in some bingo clubs. At local bingo halls children as young as 5 can play bingo games and the price of admission includes a meal. Most people consider bingo a wholesome pastime because of the game’s long association with churches, charities and other good causes. Most children have played bingo at one time or another. Many are familiar with the home version of the game and some were introduced to bingo at school where the game is used to teach various academic skills. The tradition of educational bingo dates all the way back to the late 19th century when the game was adapted for teaching purposes in Germany.

Now an anti-gambling group in Australia has made the outlandish claim that the children’s bingo games are ‘grooming’ children to become gamblers later in life. The Nowra-based Gambling Impact Society (GIS) contends that the holiday bingo games ‘lure’ children into bingo clubs and introduces them to the ‘thrill’ of gambling. The group also says that the games ‘normalize’ the practice of gambling and prepares them to gamble when they get older. Clubs NSW (New South Wales) calls the outlandish claims ‘ridiculous’ and said that bingo is as innocent as a game of marbles or a board game. The accusations by the GIS come in advance of the Federal Government’s gambling inquiry which will travel to Sydney to hear evidence from several groups including the GIS.

The GIS claims it received complaints from residents the Southern Highlands who said they were ‘alarmed’ by advertisements promoting “Kids School Holiday Bingo Popstars”. GIS chairwoman Kate Roberts claims that the bingo games ‘normalize’ gambling behavior in children that are too young to make rational and informed choices. Roberts told reporters “They are targeting young children who really don’t have the developmental, cognitive ability to make rational choices around risk and we believe it is very inappropriate to be marketing these sorts of games of chance.” In a somewhat spurious statement Roberts said “Often the poker machine areas are not too far away. We believe it is a deliberate marketing ploy to encourage family use of these venues in the holidays.” She also claimed that the games provided a babysitting service that allowed parents to gamble at the nearby pokies.

A representative for the bingo club disputes the claims made by GIS and said that the organization was “scraping the bottom of the barrel” in their claims. A spokesman from the peak body Clubs NSW pointed out the educational benefits of bingo and stated “Churches teach bingo, kindergarten teachers teach bingo, kids play it at home with their parents. The game itself is no more a gambling activity than playing marbles or monopoly. The suggestion that an adult will want to play a poker machine because they played bingo with mum or dad at their local club when they were five or six is close to the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard from the anti-gambling lobby.”