When a Melbourne mother discovered her 16-year-old son was gambling tens of thousands of dollars she began a frantic mission to get him help, only to be repeatedly turned away.
In April last year she contacted more than 30 individuals and organisations, including gambling helplines, private psychologists, hospital rehabilitation programs, politician Ged Kearney and activist Tim Costello.
But because of his age and his unwillingness to stop gambling, none could offer her help beyond a suggestion she not give him access to money and that she look after herself.
She even looked into private rehabilitation, but was put off by the $30,000 cost.
The woman has already had to cash out her superannuation, re-mortgage her previously paid off home and take on extra work to cover her son’s gambling debts of upward of $95,000.
A Melbourne mum cashed out her superannuation, re-mortgaged her previously paid off home and took on extra work to cover her son’s gambling debts of upward of $95,000 (stock image)
Multiple gaming venues across Melbourne’s northern suburbs have been charged by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission – alerted by the mother – with allowing the 16-year-old to place bets in their venues and failing to properly supervise electronic gaming machines.
The boy had also accessed online betting platforms.
The Preston Hotel was on Thursday fined $15,000 for allowing the teen to gamble $2,500 on half a dozen occasions in May and September 2022.
Magistrate Carolyn Howe said the obligation rested on the venue operator to protect children and noted the mother’s mighty efforts to seek help.
‘It must have been the most frustrating day in her life – the amount of people she contacted and reached out to for help and got nowhere – absolutely nowhere,’ she said.
A lawyer representing the Preston Hotel and its operator Ben Niall noted the boy had spent less than two or five minutes at a time placing $2,500 in bets – ranging between $100 and $760 – at the hotel.
The boy frequented the Preston Hotel, spending less than two or five minutes at a time placing $2,500 in bets – ranging between $100 and $760 (stock image)
It was a small amount in proportion to the rest of his gambling at other locations, he said.
But Ms Howe said it was the fact of allowing a minor to gamble any amount at any location that enabled his addiction.
Mr Niall, who spoke in court after the sentencing, said no one wanted this young man or others to be gambling.
‘We can make a profit without having to prey on children,’ he said, noting he was appalled this had occurred at his venue.
For a time Tabcorp required northern suburbs venues to go cashless, requiring bets to be placed with vouchers purchased from staff members in an effort to combat gambling by minors.
The requirement cost venues revenue and has since been lifted, but Mr Niall has kept it in place.
Ms Howe said it was because of steps he had taken and his previous compliance history that the Preston Hotel was able to avoid a conviction.
The hotel was also ordered to pay $10,3000 to cover prosecution costs on top of the $15,000 fine.