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Melbourne Cup: the psychology of gambling

1 November 2016

Australians love an underdog story and the Melbourne Cup is no different. But what are the long term effects of constantly linking gambling to winning? Dr Christopher Hunt from the Gambling Treatment Clinic shares his tips. 

A registered clinical psychologist working at the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment Clinic, Dr Christopher Hunt says Melbourne Cup punters should be wary of gambling within their limits. Dr Hunt is an expert in the psychology of gambling and the treatment of problem gambling.

“Australians love an underdog story and the Melbourne Cup is no different," Dr Hunt says. "Every year Australians tell tales of who came out on top at the Melbourne Cup – the multi-million-dollar prize money awarded to the winners, the punters who made it big through taking a chance on big paying trifectas, and on long-shot bets. 

"But what is the effect of constantly linking gambling to winning? Our work here at the Gambling Treatment Clinic has shown how positive associations with gambling plays a key role in the development of problem gambling, a serious issue affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians."

3 tips to keep gambling within limits

Dr Hunt says if you are intending to place a bet on the Cup today, you should follow these rules:

  1. Remember that the odds offered are not fair odds - you’ll always lose more than you win.
  2. There is no such thing as a 'sure thing'- horse racing is highly unpredictable, and unexpected things often happen.
  3. Expect to lose your money and only spend what you can afford

Increasing cases of youth gambling

In May 2015, the number of young clients at the University of Sydney's Gambling Treatment Clinic had more than doubled in the last three years, a marked increase in youth problem gamblers aged 18-25.

"Young people had always been a minority of our clients," said Dr Hunt. "But what we are finding is that over the past few years they have been one of our most rapidly expanding client groups.

"The numbers are growing much faster than our general client numbers, and we are on track to have even larger numbers of youth gamblers coming through our doors this year."

"What we are seeing as gambling is moving more to online platforms and onto smartphones, people are becoming caught up in gambling problems at much younger ages. This is also coinciding with the increase in promotion of sports betting, which may also add to the attraction of gambling for young people."


The University of Sydney Gambling Treatment Clinic can be contacted on 1800 482 482. It is funded by the NSW government's Responsible Gambling Fund.

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