Cities’ $66m gam­ble

Pok­ies habit is a cause for con­cern, says Sal­va­tion Army

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - By SELINA SHAR­RATT

POKER ma­chines have sucked more than $66 mil­lion from twin cities pun­ters in just 11 months.

The 2006 fig­ure is set to rise with the De­cem­ber to­tals yet to be fi­nalised.

A mas­sive $6 mil­lion was the av­er­age monthly amount poured into Townsville’s and Thuringowa’s 1604 gam­ing ma­chines.

The Queens­land Of­fice of Gam­ing Reg­u­la­tions sta­tis­tics show that in Townsville, $45.2 mil­lion was poured into the city’s 1199 pok­ies in the first 11 months of 2006, a monthly spend of more than $4 mil­lion.

The fig­ures did not in­clude gam­bling at Jupiters Townsville Ho­tel Casino.

It com­pared with $3.6 mil­lion gam­bled monthly on 1102 ma­chines in 2005.

In Thuringowa, 405 ma­chines col­lected a cool $20.9 mil­lion from Jan­uary to Novem­ber.

The fig­ures equate to each per­son in the twin cities spend­ing an av­er­age of $410 each year on pok­ies alone.

Sal­va­tion Army Drug and Al­co­hol ser­vices man­ager Ma­jor Bruce Harmer said the ef­fects of gam­bling were as bad as drug or al­co­hol ad­dic­tion.

‘‘It’s no dif­fer­ent than al­co­hol con­sump­tion or drug use,’’ he said.

‘‘Re­ally the long-term af­fects are far worse than the re­lief that it pro­vides at the time.’’

Maj Harmer said he was alarmed at the amount of money spent on pokie ma­chines in the twin cities.

‘‘It’s one of those so­cial prob­lems that in a sense is al­most ac­cepted by so­ci­ety,’’ he said.

‘‘Prob­lem gam­blers don’t re­alise they have an is­sue in the early stages of gam­bling and so they don’t go and see peo­ple be­fore it turns into a crit­i­cal in­ci­dent.’’

Maj Harmer said of­ten peo­ple sought help too late or not at all.

He said what started out as a recre­ational ac­tiv­ity could eas­ily spi­ral out of con­trol.

‘‘Peo­ple gam­ble for dif­fer­ent rea­sons and it starts out as a recre­ational-type ac­tiv­ity,’’ Maj Harmer said.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately many gam­blers gam­ble with money that they do need to pay for things like rent and mort­gages, to pay for food and phone bills and that’s how peo­ple get them­selves in trou­ble.’’

He said there were three stages of recog­nis­ing prob­lem gam­bling in loved ones.

‘‘They move through three phases in gam­bling,’’ Maj Harmer said.

‘‘You have the win­ning phase, the los­ing phase, then the des­per­a­tion phase where they try to re-coup their money.

‘‘And from that point you play catch up — very, very few peo­ple ever catch up.’’

But not all gam­blers had fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

‘‘Some

peo­ple use gam­bling al­most like a seda­tive,’’ Maj Harmer said.

‘‘If they have some prob­lems at home . . . they use i t like an a n e s t h e t i c a n d b a s i c a l l y anes­thetise them­selves for hours and hours on their favourite pokie ma­chines.’’

Maj Harmer es­ti­mated about 400,000 peo­ple were gam­bling ad­dicts across Aus­tralia.

‘‘We be­lieve the rip­ple ef­fect of those 400,000 af­fect around two mil­lion peo­ple di­rectly or in­di­rectly,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve heard the sto­ries of chil­dren be­ing left in cars while mum or dad are in gam­bling.

‘‘Of­ten places don’t seem to have a lot of clocks around, they have good light­ing so it looks like day­time all day and so it’s very easy when you are in that cy­cle to get dis­ori­ented and it’s easy to leave the kids in the car . . . or spend more money than you should.’’

The Sal­va­tion Army of­fers coun­selling ser­vices for any­one af­fected by gam­bling. The Salvos may be con­tacted on 4772 3607.

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