Region’s gambling problem up to 10 times worse than realised

The regional director of an organisation that helps central Victorians struggling with gambling addiction says the problem may be far greater than many people realise.

Anglicare Victoria regional director Francis Lynch said while the organisation helped 460 individuals and families, there was “probably 10 times that number of people with a problem with gambling in the region”.

“I think people would not necessarily think that there’s that much of a problem with gambling in the community but it's not necessarily the people who are becoming bankrupt, it’s also those people who are having significant impacts on their day-to-day life as a result of gambling,” he said.

Mr Lynch said it was often the most vulnerable members of society who were most at risk.

“Somebody who is experiencing significant depression or anxiety might find that gambling is something which helps them feel as though they’re doing something in a social environment without necessarily having to talk to people or actually engage with people,” he said.

And while there were “a whole series of things that drive the problem”, Mr Lynch said a major factor was convenience.

“It’s very easy to gamble, there are a lot of venues around town, anyone with a mobile phone, or smart phone, which is most people these days, can get access to gambling with online apps and over the internet as well so it's very easy to access gambling without it being very obvious to other people,” he said.

“I think that increased convenience has definitely driven this over the last 20 years.”

The comments come after the state government this week announced the number of poker machines in the Central Goldfields Shire would be capped as a percentage of the municipality’s population, and Mr Lynch said he believed the government was aware of the significance of the problem.

“The Victorian government is trying to get the balance right in terms of the supports and also just the way that venues operate, how many machines are actually in the community and whether they can grow in certain areas,” he said.

Anglicare Victoria’s gambler’s help team can be called on free call 1800 244 323.