The AFL’s most prominent reformed problem gambler says betting has never been causing more carnage in football than it is right now.
And he says COVID lockdowns have only made the problem worse.
Melbourne great David Schwarz, who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling during his football career, said it was the “biggest” issue in football right now, at all levels.
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“I am currently interstate talking to some footy clubs, at the moment, that are really experiencing absolute difficulties with the punt,” Schwarz told 3AW’s Footy: Then and Now podcast.
David Schwarz (L) battled a crippling gambling addiction for almost all of his 173-game career for Melbourne (Getty)
“I think COVID has exacerbated a lot of it, because players and individuals have been sitting at home and they’ve gone to that vice as a way of stimulation and to get away from what COVID was delivering, which was boredom and a real sense of helplessness.
“I’ve never seen the devastation that gambling has brought to kids 17 to 21, in particular, than what I’m seeing right now.
“Schools are beside themselves trying to deal with how they can balance it out, footy clubs are being decimated, and it’s a real concern.”
‘Footy: Then and Now’ is a weekly podcast that gets you excited for the weekend ahead by revisiting famous VFL/AFL moments with the people who shaped them. Follow/Subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Google Podcasts
Schwarz retired in 2002 virtually penniless having lost large amounts of money to gambling (Getty)
Schwarz said the problem would likely be even worse at AFL level.
“They have even more disposable income, they have more time,” Schwarz said.
“I am concerned, yes.”
Schwarz said he was aware of some clubs banning gambling groups and punters clubs to combat the problem.
“And you can’t blame them for that,” he said.
Schwarz now works in the football media and said the industry was “drunk” on gambling sponsorship.
He said there needed to be a better balance struck with what was allowed to be advertised and promoted.
“It’s probably not great for our pay packets, but guess what, I’m happy to sacrifice if it’s going to save kids and families,” he said.
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