Millions lost on pokies

From November 2020 to March 2021, the shires pokies losses totalled more than $8 million.

THE Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s most recent data shows pokies losses across Gippsland have continued to increase since the venues reopened in November 2020.

In December 2020, one month after the pokies reopened, losses more than doubled in most Gippsland local government areas.

By January 2021, monthly expenditure was comparable to 2018-19 when the pokies venues were open for a full financial year.

In 2020, Wellington Shire’s losses totalled $7,673,037, and from November 2020 to March 2021, the shire’s pokies losses totalled $8,151,706.

This is despite pokies being closed down because of COVID-19 between April and November 2020.

A Latrobe Community Health Service spokesperson said each year about 330,000 Victorian adults were harmed by their own gambling, and another 300,000 are negatively affected by someone else’s.

LCHS behavioural health programs manager Paula Gibb said financial loss was the most obvious type of gambling harm, while other harms included feelings of anxiety or depression, relationship conflict, and diminished work or study performance.

“People affected by gambling harm often experience stigma, with many saying they would rather admit to an alcohol or drug problem.

“But if they feel able to seek help, professional counselling, both financial and therapeutic, can lead to positive change.”

Latrobe Community Health Service provides free and confidential Gambler’s Help services across Gippsland.

Ms Gibb said clients often came into counselling believing they had run out of options, but her service offered a “safe place” for people to open up, discuss problems and get support without judgement.

“There’s nothing we can’t talk about, as long as the client is comfortable,” she said.

“Counsellors are empathetic.

“We understand the plight of our clients and we work collaboratively with them to find solutions, help them regain control and start feeling better,” Ms Gibb said.

She said recovery from a gambling addiction was achievable, and counselling could offer relief and hope.

“Finding a new way to think about gambling often starts simply by talking to someone who gets it,” she said.