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Gambling: odds on maths could help says VU academic

Media Release
10 February 2009

Gambling: odds on maths could help says VU academic

Victoria University (VU) academic Donald Smith says maths teachers have a responsibility to teach gambling principles so that their students have less likelihood of becoming problem gamblers.

Donald, a lecturer in VU's Schools of Social Sciences and Education, says lessons on why odds are stacked against pokies players and other chance gamblers should be required topics in secondary school maths curricula.

He says classes should be viewed as preventative education - in a similar way that many schools teach about the risks of sex and drugs.

"What is happening now is that this information - if offered at all - is buried in mathematical curricula about statistics or probability. This has a different purpose than warning about commercial gambling, so the real importance of this awareness is not learned."

Donald says that if the Victorian Government was serious about its role to provide information about responsible gambling to the community, it should begin by making secondary students aware of chance gambling from a maths perspective.

"Most people do not realise that laws of mathematics can fully dispel the common, but mistaken, notion that chance gamblers will eventually win in the long-term. In fact, mathematics proves that the longer someone plays, the more guaranteed is their overall loss."

He says the best way to educate students about these principles is through practical and direct teaching games that demonstrate the hopelessness of playing the pokies or other chance games long-term with an expectation of making money.

"Students need to have specific knowledge so they understand that over time, mathematics principles work in favour of poker machines and other chance games, and strip players of their money."

Donald says his suggestion is much different to one recently announced by the gambling industry suggesting schools should teach students the rules of commercial gambling games.

"That is an appalling suggestion and has a much different motive. However, we agree that students should have specific understanding of gambling principles."

Statistics from The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation show that spending on electronic gaming machines in the state reached $2.6 billion in the year ending June 2008, an increase of three per cent over the previous period.

Donald Smith is available for interview.

Contact: Donald Smith, Victoria University on +61 3 9919 4672 (Work) or +61 3 9347 7515 (After hours)

VU Media Contact: Ann Marie Angebrandt
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
Phone: + 61 3 9919 5487
Mobile: 0403 556 001

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