PROBLEM gambling in the North East is set to be tackled by Neighbourhood Houses and an Aboriginal group.
The Victorian government is giving $159,800 to the Upper Murray Regional Neighbourhood House Network and $200,000 to Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation.
The network has 16 houses from Yarrawonga to Corryong and south to Myrtleford and Mount Beauty.
Acting network co-ordinator Loretta Waters, who is based at Wangaratta's Open Door house, said problem gambling was a major concern across demographics.
"It's not only the low socio-economic group, we have tradies and parents and employed people that find their gambling spend is in excess of their income," Ms Waters said.
"Finding alternative activities at some of those risk times - after work, lunch time and weekends - that's an area Neighbourhood Houses have the flexibility to address."
The network's project will involve developing "local strategies to prevent and reduce harm" with a particular focus on loneliness.
An eastern suburbs Neighbourhood House network in Melbourne has run a similar program which will provide a model for the Upper Murray.
Wodonga-based Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation has received its cash for a cultural program.
According to an outline the $200,000 will be used for "a suite of activities including cultural inductions for new Australians, cultural exchange events, monthly cultural connection activities, annual cultural festivals".
Great to announce $2m funding for the Prevention Partnerships Program @vicrgf Gambling Harm Awareness Week to break the stigma around problem gambling. Congratulations to the 14 recipients, many of which represent regional and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. pic.twitter.com/ChSdOOYMTJ— Marlene Kairouz MP (@MarleneKairouz) October 10, 2019
Exactly how those measures relate to tackling problem gambling is unclear with the corporation's chief executive Belinda Stephens not returning The Border Mail's calls on Thursday.
News of the funding, announced to coincide with Gambling Harm Awareness Week, comes as spending on poker machines balloons in some parts of the North East.
The most recent monthly data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation shows $891,895 was outlaid on 154 poker machines in August in Wangaratta.
That compares to $794,114 (July) and $637,654 (June).
Overall in the last financial year a record $8.873 million was spent on pokie machines in Wangaratta with the total rising each 12 months since 2012-13.
Benalla also had record expenditure in 2018-19 with $11.077 million spent on 240 poker machines.
In August it broke seven figures for monthly spending with $1.044 million.
By comparison the outlay in more heavily populated Wodonga was $7.643 in 2018-19, dropping from $7.768 in 2017-18.
However that was across fewer machines, 135, at three venues.