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Football and sport has the ability to highlight issues in the community and consequently effect social change. This week is Responsible Gambling Awareness Week where the government are using four former and current AFL players as ambassadors. 
Wayne Schwass is a former North Melbourne and Sydney player, and a passionate supporter of measures to address depression and mental illness in young people, particularly young athletes from all sports. Daniel Ward, a former Melbourne player, has experienced first-hand the devastating effects of problem gambling and is a passionate advocate for responsible gambling. Daniel was involved in the Foundation ‘Fight for the Real You’ campaign and as an RGAW Ambassador, Daniel is keen to spread the responsible gambling message and promote the role of social and family in encouraging responsible gambling. They are joined by current players Jack Ziebell and Travis Cloke.
In the last five years there have been major changes in the opportunities for gambling and its promotion. This has been driven in large part by the direct and indirect effects of changes in digital technology and access to the internet. These changes have had major impacts on the way young people are exposed to gambling, as a concept and as a product.
In the discussion paper: Gambling and young people: Impacts, challenges and responses, it is noted that young people are considered up to five times as susceptible to problems with gambling than adults. Studies of adults’ gambling problems also indicate that many of them began gambling while underage.
Gambling problems can lead to a multitude of harms including deep depression, missing school/uni or dropping out, undermining friendships, family disruption and criminal behaviour. Gambling issues for young people are also often associated with other problems including drug and alcohol use and violent behaviour. Identifying that a young person has been gambling could also flag that there may be other serious problems in their life.

Any Victorian who has followed sport in the last five years will be aware of a blitz of gambling promotion in the mass media and at AFL grounds. In addition to these changes, there has been the greater penetration of faster and wireless internet connections into all aspects of life. This has been accompanied by a convergence of new mobile devices that are internet capable (smart phones, tablets, TVs, notebooks).
The VAFA has been approached by numerous corporate bookmakers but have made the decision not to promote these companies to our members. As the campaign states we are not against responsible gambling but certainly not comfortable in receiving funds at the detriment of our members and supporting organisations that could lead to issues later in life.
VAFA clubs have the ability to inform and build young people’s knowledge and capacity to negotiate the gambling environment they are exposed to, including knowledge of how gambling works, how to avoid the harm it can cause and the confidence to seek help. 
The main message is that a young person’s engagement with gambling should not be treated with complacency. 

– Michael Sholly