STARTLING figures showing 128 Victorian suicides related to problem gambling in the past 12 years have been described by a Warrnambool psychologist as a wake-up call.
The coroner’s report reveals that 85 per cent of the victims were men aged 30 to 49 and 15 per cent were women.
Poker machines were linked to 19 of the deaths.
Psychologist and anti-gambling campaigner Lyn Brown said she hoped the wider community would become more concerned about wider implications rather than just see it as an issue with problem gamblers.
“This report could be a wake-up call,” she said.
“There will be major sadness for these losses of life and like road deaths the ripple effect is huge.
“Gambling is quite pervasive and it should not be seen as just associated with a small group of people with problems.
“I think the number of people addicted is much higher than official figures show.”
Ms Brown said with on-line wagering and sports betting increasing across all age levels it was obvious gambling was socially acceptable.
“I think gambling should be seen as a public health issue,” she said.
Ms Brown said community education programs should be widened because many people did not engage with mainstream media messages.
She doubted if public discussion forums would get the message across because of industry lobbyists who would push their views hard.
“Another issue is the benefits state and federal governments gain from gambling,” she said.
“It’s a sanctioned industry.”
Premier and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine said the suicides were tragic situation, but he noted the Coroner’s report also showed numbers had fallen in the last two years.
He said the government had removed ATMs from gaming venues and contributed a large amount of funding to the Responsible Gambling Association.
Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation figures show losses at Warrnambool gaming machines fell by more than $2 million last financial year to $16.36m.
n Bethany Community Support gambling support service 1300 510 439.