PUNTERS put more than $9.4 million through south-west poker machines during the summer.
The cash injection came after the region's gaming machines were closed for seven months during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
From November 2020 to January there was $4.29 million spent on more than 200 gaming machines in Warrnambool with $1.93 million spent during January alone.
According to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in the Colac Otway shire, which also consists of data from Corangamite shire, there was $2.18 million spent on gaming machines in the two shires for the same period.
In the Glenelg shire, which also consists of data from the Southern Grampians shire, there was $3 million spent on gaming machines from November to January.
For the 2020 calendar year there was $15.9 million spent on gaming machines in the south-west.
Therapeutic and Children's Services manager, Tracie McPherson, from Bethany Community Support said there had been a reduction in people seeking support during the lockdown but numbers were now increasing.
"We're experiencing a steady increase," she said.
Ms McPherson said the lockdown provided some problem gamblers an opportunity to take a break from gaming machines. "It gave some a chance to take a breath," she said. She said harmful gambling affected more than people's finances.
"It can affect their mental and emotional wellbeing, their relationships with family and friends, their time, their work and their employability," she said. "Gambling harm is when a person feels that they can no longer control it and how much and how often they gamble," she said.
It's actually when people can no longer control how much or how often they're gambling.Tracie McPherson
"I think people sometimes think a certain dollar figure... it's actually when people can no longer control how much or how often they're gambling." She said Bethany provided a range of services for anyone experiencing gambling harm.
For help call Bethany Community Support on 03 5278 8122 or Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858.
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