Pokies reap big dollars from punters

PROBLEM gamblers are increasingly seeking help for their addiction, with North East gamblers losing close to $85,000 a day through poker machines alone.

Statistics recently released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation show close to $2.6 million was lost by gamblers in the region in July last year.

SUPPORT: Kaily Goodsell hopes to receive additional funding for her organisation to support gamblers with their addiction and turn their lives around.

SUPPORT: Kaily Goodsell hopes to receive additional funding for her organisation to support gamblers with their addiction and turn their lives around.

That equates to $83,867 each day.

St David’s Care has seen an 18 per cent increase in Border people – who can have six-figure debts – seeking assistance to turn their lives around.

Counsellor Kaily Goodsell said while online gambling, often through mobile phones, was becoming increasingly popular, gaming machines were still causing the biggest issues.

She has seen clients with debts of $70,000, $120,000 and one suicidal man owing $500,000.

“We do need more funding,” Ms Goodsell said.

“Our statistics have gone up from the last 12-month period.

“We do need to be able to fit more people in counselling roles to meet the demand.”

The increased accessibility of gambling through mobile apps is helping to drive the increase.

Ms Goodsell said in many cases people weren’t worried about their wins, but were instead seeking an escape.

“We’ve coined a term, ‘respite from life’,” she said.

“It’s a form of escapism.

“It can lead to some really bad behaviour and people get withdrawals.

“We try to help people extinguish the urge.”

Gateway Health Gamblers’ Help co-ordinator David Rosewarne said the service was going to start encouraging businesses and groups to develop gambling policies.

“Everyone has got an alcohol and drug policy, but I don’t think anyone really has a gambling policy to address online gambling during work hours,” he said.

“It’s just getting too easy and too available.”

Mr Rosewarne said the service had traditionally focused on the 1 per cent of gamblers who were experiencing severe harm from their addition, but was now working with the 10 per cent of gamblers who were at low to moderate risk of harm.