Cities’ $66m gamble
Pokies habit is a cause for concern, says Salvation Army
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.
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.