Hidden problem because of stigma says psychologist

A leading welfare organisation is increasing the help it offers to people trapped in problem gambling in Glen Innes.

Until now, Centacare has only offered telephone counselling to people in the town but it’s now trained up two workers in psychology to offer face-to-face help.

The agency believes the need is there so it’s stepping up its provision of advice to those in danger of falling into serious financial or family trouble through their addiction.

Psychologist Tim Rawson said that problem gambling wasn’t just about people tied to pokies. There was an increase in other forms of gambling because television advertising made it look fun and pain-free as a way of making money.

On top of that, the industry was spreading gambling online, even to phones. A gambling element was being introduced to video games.

Tim Rawson said the signs that gambling was getting out of control for someone were: 

  • the activity was no longer that much fun for the gambler;
  • the gambler was spending more money than planned;
  • that people “chased losses” – that they poured money in after a bad streak.

Mr Rawson said the problem was hidden because of the stigma attached to gambling, particularly when it’s out of control. He said the research showed that for every gambler in difficulty, there were another nine or ten people close to him or her who were also affected.

He said that the psychologists for Glen Innes offered ways of reducing the barriers people feel about discussing their problem. He said the service offered support not just to the gambler but to his or her friends and family if they were also caught up in the problem, say because debts were mounting.

The revenue which particular clubs and pubs get is not known, let alone how much each machines makes, but Mr Rawson said that in the 2016-17 financial year the revenue from poker machines in the Glen Innes and Inverell council areas together was $50 million. This is more than the profit to the machine owners because tax has to be paid. 

Australian pokie machines have a reputation for having been designed to be particularly attractive to gamblers, giving players easy buzzes even when not winning. Mr Rawson said that one technique was to give gamblers a “near win experience” – the gambler has lost but gets to feel that just one more go will be the winning turn.

Centacare’s Helpline: 1 800 372 826. Gambling Helpline for NSW: 1 800 858 858