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24 November 2010

AFL Star David Schwarz: Gambling, Mafia Warnings, by Greg Tingle - 24th November 2010

Readers, punters, politicians, casino millionaires, billionaires, sports nuts, one and all. We know that only a small percentage of people develop a gambling problem, where it starts to become a real problem and negative in their lives. As a public service and in the spirit of being fair and balanced in our coverage of gaming and gambling we offer the story on an Aussie sporting champion who survived his problem, and today he shares it with us. Media Man and Gambling911 with the news you need to know, not necessarily what you want to hear...

AFL footy star David Schwarz knows what it's like to battle with a gambling addiction.

His addition has been compared to the one that Brendan "Punter Fev" Fevola once was known for.

He gambled the better part of $4 million bucks over a decade while playing with the Melbourne Demons AFL team between 1991 and 2001.

In a revealing and candid speech at a gambler's help launch at Victoria's Latrobe Community Health Service last Monday, Schwarz disclosed he made it out of his gambling addition only because of the help of other people.

Schwarz lived in Morwell and Traralgon as a child before moving to Beechworth and then Sunbury.

He's good memories of growing up are overshadowed by bad. When he was 8 years old he said he saw his father shot dead in front of him, leaving the family with gambling debts of almost $40,000, then the value of 3 houses in the town.

When he was 14 he placed his first bet and scored a winner, pocketing about $50.

Schwarz said when he told his mother how he got the money he "saw the fear in her eyes straight away".

The only days of the year he didn't gamble were Christmas Day and Good Friday, because the betting companies were closed.

When the AFL hit the "boom time" in the 1990s Schwarz said his income jumped from about $30,000 a year to $1.28 million for a 4 year deal.

"Most people would think 'I can set myself up for life here', I thought 'I can do some damage at the track'," Schwarz said.

His gambling spiralled out of control and the rising footy star blew his earnings and the equity on his Camberwell home, and his personal and work relationships began to suffer greatly.

"I was hanging out with d**kheads in the Mafia...all of a sudden I'm the person who's letting my team down...no one trusts me," he said.

"(But) I don't care, I'm punting, that's my life."

He told the group that punters made selfish choices and lied to family and friends.

Schwarz said he didn't believe the gaming industry was "evil", but some punters were vulnerable to becoming problem gamblers and those people needed to be protected.

Average electronic gaming machine expenditure in the Latrobe Valley is about $4 million a month. You read correctly.

Latrobe Community Health community support executive director Anne-Maree Kaser said the Venue Support Workers program helped gaming venue staff identify and respond to people showing signs of problem gambling behaviours.

Two Venue Support Workers are now in Gippsland working with gaming venues and gambler's help organisations to support responsible gambling practices and environments.

Hat's off to Schwarz, gaming companies and community support groups doing the right thing.

If gambling is becoming a problem for you please seek assistance.

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Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, how did you like our report? Do you think you or a friend might have a problem with gambling? Tell us in the forum.

If you have a bet, please bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.

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