A WARRNAMBOOL organisation providing support for problem gamblers and their families say the harm caused cannot be measured by a dollar value.
Speaking during Gambling Harm Awareness Week, Bethany Community Support’s manager of therapeutic and children’s services Tracie McPherson said gambling harm was how it impacted an individual’s life, their family unit and their community.
“For each person harm is an individual level and it’s hard to say what’s harmful for one person is not harmful for another,” she said.
“But usually that plays out in financial distress, the stress about the time that’s used to gamble and then you go to the more pointy end like criminal and fraudulent behaviour.”
Ms McPherson said with gambling advertising during sport and access via mobile phones a different approach was needed to be taken to support people at risk of harm.
“When the pokies were introduced, and like the TAB, you needed to drive to the venue, you needed to line up and that created points where people might think it’s not a good idea today,” she said.
“But when it’s actually on your phone and you’ve got access to it 24/7, you can do it anywhere.
“So you can do it while you’re sitting in your lounge room with your family or you can do it at work.”
She said when people thought about gambling harm or problem gambling they often thought of poker machines but new technology meant there were increasingly new ways to gamble.
“It’s a different approach we need to take,” she said.
Ms McPherson said the earlier people got intervention the easier it was to have strategies in place to control or stop gambling.
“Because some people don’t want to stop but they want to control it,” she said.
“There’s not a lot of stigma attached if you’re a low or moderate risk gambler but there is a lot of stigma attached to being a problem gambler.”
Ms McPherson said Bethany Community Support could provide counselling, including financial counselling, which could help people renegotiate their debts.
“That’s for problem gamblers and for family members that are impacted,” she said.
“There’s also counselling services for employers or other people that might want to have that conversation with an employee or a family member or even someone at the sports club.”