An agency that supports problem gamblers says it's "really concerned" about the latest figures for gaming machine losses in central Victoria.
Tracey Grinter, who is program manager of community services for Anglicare Victoria's north central region, urged anyone with concerns about their finances to reach out for support.
"The money lost by residents in Greater Bendigo to poker machines in March 2021 is the highest it has been since August 2019, which is something we're really concerned about," she said.
"We know people, particularly families, are still struggling financially as we continue to recover from COVID-19.
"Financial strain has been further exasperated by government support payments dropping back to pre-pandemic rates and an increase in the price and competition for rental properties in regional Victoria.
"Problem gambling can cause severe financial distress, often resulting in skipping meals and going without everyday essentials.
"I strongly encourage anyone who is worried about their own gambling habits, or those of a loved one, to contact Anglicare Victoria's free financial counselling services or their local Gambler's Help."
Losses on poker machines in Greater Bendigo have returned to levels reported before the COVID-19 pandemic, figures from the state's gaming regulator show.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling Liquor Regulation said expenditure on Greater Bendigo's 661 poker machines during March was $4,669,208.
That was up significantly on the figure for March 2020, which was when lockdown restrictions started to affect the hospitality sector.
But the amount lost was also higher than the result for March 2019, and the most for a single month in Greater Bendigo since gaming venues reopened last November.
The trends were similar in other parts of central Victoria.
In the Campaspe Shire during March there was $1,018,970 lost on poker machines. That was a higher amount than recorded in March 2019, but slightly lower than the figure for January this year.
The amount lost in the Central Goldfields Shire during March this year was also up on the figure for March 2019.
Conversely, March 2019 was a slightly higher number than March this year in the Macedon Ranges, but losses there were roughly in line with those recorded before the pandemic.
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