Punters normally blowing money on the Peninsula’s poker machines have saved more than $34 million because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate the Rev Tim Costello said the pandemic had presented residents with an opportunity to rethink gambling and its impacts.
“Australians lost $25 billion gambling last year – the highest rate of losses per head in the entire world,” Mr Costello said. “Gambling harm impacts more people than most of us realise. The stigma associated with it often prevents people from speaking up or seeking help and we must overcome this.”
Reformed pokies addict Carolyn Crawford said going to prison had provided her with the impetus to get counselling and stop gambling. “Even though going to prison wasn’t a good thing, if I hadn’t I might never have (received) the help I required to stop.”
Ms Crawford urged anyone addicted to poker machines to get help while the machines were shut down. “There is a way out of this terrible addiction. The understanding you gain about the machines is valuable and the money you save will amaze you.”
Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor Sam Hearn said the lockdown had effectively created a COVID ‘silver lining’ for the punters. “Gambling-related harm can impact us in ways we don’t always see and can affect our health and community services, education institutions, workplaces and local businesses,” Cr Hearn said. “It can take a toll on our personal lives too, damaging families and straining friendships.”
Gamblers Help Southern welcomed the saving but cautioned that problem gambling was still occurring during lockdown. Chief executive Amanda Murphy said social isolation was proving a big challenge, with some people turning to online gambling to break the boredom. “Just because we are asked to stay home or indoors doesn’t mean we’re safe from the harm of gambling,” Ms Murphy said.
Gamblers Help Southern provides a range of tools and support options to protect the community from the temptation of gambling, offering these tips for online gamblers:
Set a time limit: It’s easy to get lost in online play without the usual routines and commitments filling your day. Think about how much of your time you want to set aside, and once you’ve reached it, get into the habit of switching off.
Set a money limit: When you’re not physically handing over cash or using a bank card, it’s easy to lose track of spending. Keep an eye on your account and remember the extra dollar here and there can quickly add up. There are also many online games available that you do not have to spend money on to enjoy. Choose free games with no micro-transactions or in-game purchases.
Break up your routine: If you’re finding yourself online at the same time every day – maybe after putting the kids to bed or on a lunch break – set a day aside to do something different with that time. Listen to a podcast, message a friend, do a crossword or try some meditation.
Check how you’re feeling: If you’re jumping online every time you’re feeling lonely, anxious or bored, it’s important to try to break the cycle. Plan ahead and have a list of activities ready to go for when you feel like you want to dabble online.
Don’t play for profit: Money is tight for many people right now but this is not a way to make money. Remember, gambling companies are experts at enticing you to spend more and exceed your limit.
Check with your bank: Some banks have introduced gambling restriction options on personal credit cards. The restrictions block gambling transactions, including sports betting, lottery tickets and online gambling.
Delete the app: While it might be easier said than done, deleting the app can help prevent temptation.
For help, phone Gamblers Help Southern on 9575 5353, visit www.gamblershelpsouthern.org.au or email email@example.com