Don’t let it ruin you
Monday, 8th October, 2018
By Callum Marshall
This week marks Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, where people are being encouraged to look at their own gambling practices and talk to family and friends about theirs.
Over the last year more than 3.4 million people have gambled in NSW, which is more than half the adult population across the state.
Local Lifeline Gambling Counsellor Greg Pearce said “underlying issues” were usually connected to problem gambling.
“If a person has a problem with gambling there’s always a lot of underlying issues,” he said.
“It could be a traumatic event in their life such as the loss of someone.
“Most people that go gambling go there for a reason. The most common reason (I hear) is ‘I just needed time to myself to get over the thing that was affecting me.’
“Most who sit at a poker machine room day in and day out are (incredibly) focused and there’s nothing that can disturb them from that. You could be talking to them but they’re not hearing you. For them it’s just ‘me time.’
“That’s what leads to a lot of problem gamblers, because they’re just constantly playing and blocking out the rest of the world.
“The only reason they’re doing that is because they don’t want the hurt that’s on the outside. Gambling’s a safety net for them and that’s when it can, and will, become an issue. So that’s when they seek assistance.”
In the Broken Hill, Wentworth and Unincorporated Far West NSW region, latest Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority statistics show clubs netted a gaming machine profit of $11.1 million between November 2017 to the end of May this year.
For hotels within the Broken Hill and Unincorporated Far West region, the latest statistics show net gaming machine profits reached $547,316.04 in the period January 1 to the end of June this year.
In spite of those heavy losses, Greg said that local hotels and clubs were incredibly helpful when it came to properly caring for those who had gambling problems.
He said he shared a good relationship with them and that if any of them did have patrons with significant problems they were guided to him at Lifeline.
“The clubs and the hotels in Broken Hill are very supportive of people if they do have a problem or they feel they have an issue getting support,” he said.
“There’s quite a few people in town who have issues with gambling but not so much that it’s a problem.
“There are problem gamblers in all communities but, to the best of my ability, we’re really good here because people know when they have an issue that they’ll come and get assistance.
“In years gone by it was a problem because in a mining town like Broken Hill it was a bit of a tradition to have a punt, and there was no help like there is today.”
In today’s society, a big issue Greg found as a gambling counsellor wasn’t so much how to deal with those affected by poker machines or other traditional types of gambling but rather, online betting, particularly how it impacted young people.
“Of late, I’m finding with a lot of young people with newer technology (that) there’s a lot of online gambling,” he said.
“It’s regulated to some degree but not where it should be. We’ve got a lot of overseas gambling companies that are coming into Australia and they’re so accessible for people.
“I find when I do programs in schools I ask students with mobile phones, ‘do you have a punt?’ Eighty-five per cent would say ‘yes.’ Across NSW, ten per cent of students at any given high school are problem gamblers and that’s because of online technology.
“Years ago it was just poker machines, the horses and TAB, but with technology being so far advanced today, we as counsellors and gambling help services are struggling to keep up when there is a problem.
“In the coming years there’s going to be a time when it’s out of our control. But it’s good to know that there is help out there for them if they need it.”
Greg said that he wanted to reassure locals that he wasn’t against gambling if they sought out his assistance.
“I’m not against gambling, it’s about responsible gambling. Once it starts taking a hold of your life and dictating to you, that’s when you need to seek assistance,” he said.
“You don’t know and you’ll never know until you’ve experienced what it’s like to be a problem gambler.
“So there’s nothing wrong with punting, it’s there for entertainment and that’s what it’s all about. But once the fun and the enjoyment goes out of it and you feel you’ve got a problem, that’s when you need to seek help and that’s what I’m here for.”
For those still unsure about seeking assistance during Sensible Gambling Awareness Week, Greg said his role was to listen and support, not to judge.
“Don’t be afraid, put your hand up and ask for help. That’s the best thing you can do,” he said.
If you have a gambling problem or are worried you are developing one, you can call the local Lifeline at (08) 8087 7525 and organise an appointment with Greg Pearce.
For more information on Responsible Gambling Awareness Week visit https://www.responsiblegambling.nsw.gov.au/education-and-awareness/responsible-gambling-awareness-week.