$300 million pumped into pokies in single year

HELP AT HAND: Psychologist Tim Rawson from Centacare New England says gambling addiction can be ‘utterly debilitating’ for sufferers.

HELP AT HAND: Psychologist Tim Rawson from Centacare New England says gambling addiction can be ‘utterly debilitating’ for sufferers.

FIGURES have revealed gamblers in the New England outlaid close to $300 million in a single year on poker machines.

The alarming stats, released by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, show $291 million was turned over in local pokies in 2012.

According to Centacare New England gambling help service manager Tim Rawson, the data shows how insidious gambling addiction can be.

“Poker machines are the most common presentation to us for gambling addiction, accounting for more than 70 per cent,” Mr Rawson said.

“Up to 2 per cent of Australians experience problem gambling and it can affect anyone at any age.

“It can create social isolation, job loss, criminal activity, relationship breakdowns, depression and anxiety.”

He said the addiction could also have a profound impact on loved ones, with each addict affecting up to 10 people around them.

Spending more money or time on gambling than you intended to, lying about your losses, struggling to control your impulses or trying to hide your gambling activities were all possible signs of addiction, he said.

“People gamble excessively for a variety of reasons,” Mr Rawson said.

“It could be stress release or to relieve boredom or it could be an attempt to get rich quick.”

* Free, confidential help is available for people struggling with gambling. Contact Centacare on 1800 372 826 or the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.

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