Gambling harm in isolation

Tackling gambling harm in isolation

While the doors have been shut on pokies venues, pubs and the casino, and most sports around the world have been postponed or cancelled, Victoria’s largest gambler’s help service warns gambling related harm hasn’t closed its doors.

Gambler’s Help Southern, a service of Connect Health & Community, said these unprecedented times are putting additional pressures on many in the community who may already be struggling with gambling-related issues.

CEO Amanda Murphy welcomed the Federal Government’s recent announcement for additional funding towards mental health and family violence services in its COVID-19 response.

“We know that gambling harm typically doesn’t occur in isolation and every day we see clients and their loved ones who are navigating many complex issues including gambling,” she said.

“We also know many people in our community have lost their jobs in recent weeks, creating or exacerbating financial stress for many households.  For some of our clients who are no longer gambling but still dealing with previous debt as a result of their gambling, losing their job in the current environment puts enormous additional pressure on people,” she said.

Ms Murphy said that in addition to those already struggling with financial trauma from past gambling harm, the social isolation of a community in isolation threatens to wreak further havoc on those turning to online gambling to break their boredom.

“We know that social isolation is a key trigger for many to engage in gambling to gain some kind of ‘connection’ and fear the COVID-19 crisis could create a perfect storm for those vulnerable and alone,” she said.

“It is concerning that we have already seen an increase in online gambling advertisements as people seek refuge and entertainment in social media and the virtual world during these unprecedented times.  Not only are people who regularly gamble at greater risk, but now people who have found themselves seeking a new source of entertainment or escapism who are in financial distress may be tempted to start gambling as a result of the constant exposure to online gambling offerings.  It’s the ultimate scenario to increase peoples’ vulnerability,” she said.

Ms Murphy said it was possible for people to stay safe online and reduce their gambling harm.

“Just because we are asked to stay home or indoors, doesn’t mean we have to reach for the electronic stimulation of online gambling,” she said.

“Gamblers Help Southern recommends a range of tools and support options to help protect the community from the temptation of getting into, or further into, trouble with their gambling,” she said.

These include:

  • Take the 100 day challenge – an online tool to support those who want to take a break, cut back or as the first step to stopping their gambling permanently. “It helps people to shift their focus from gambling to alternative activities with support from an online community,” she said.
  • Take a break – “We encourage people to consider suspending their online sports betting account. You can select the period of time to suspend your account and explore other pursuits in that time,” she said.
  • Check with your bank – “Some banks including NAB and Macquarie have introduced gambling restriction options on personal credit cards. The restrictions block gambling transactions including sports betting, lottery tickets and online gambling.”
  • Delete the app – “While it might be easier said than done, if you can delete the app from your screen, it can help prevent temptation.”
  • Don’t bet on sports you don’t even like (or never even heard of a month ago) – “If you’ve never watched a dog race, don’t start now just because footy is on hold. Find an activity or interest you do enjoy.

Ms Murphy said that throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Gambler’s Help Southern’s therapeutic and financial counselling services are still open with phone support for those in need.

“We understand the importance of supporting our community at this incredibly challenging time and still offer free, confidential support to anyone experiencing gambling related harm.   We are all in this together and Gambler’s Help Southern is here to help – whether it is the person who is gambling or a family member,” she said.

If you would like help with a gambling problem or how to prevent gambling harm, call Gambler’s Help Southern on 9575 5353 or email ghs.intake@connecthealth.org.au.

Mental health support
Beyond Blue Helpline: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: www.lifeline.com.au 13 11 14
For 24/7 support for women and children experiencing or at risk of family violence, phone: 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au
Men’s referral service, freecall 1300 766 471
Kids helpline: 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelpline.com.au

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