TAMWORTH punters gambled away more than $879,000 a day in the pokies, new figures have revealed.
The allure of poker machines in the New England North West has been laid bare, with the region gambling more than $903 million in the year leading up to July 2016.
The Tamworth Regional Council area led the way in the region with more than $321 million gambled through poker machines in pubs and clubs last financial year.
The figures come from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s (ILGA) annual report into gaming statistics.
Tamworth’s gambling turnover has increased since 2015, but the number of machines in the region has dropped slightly.
As of June 30, 2016, there were 513 authorised machines in Tamworth clubs and 222 in the region’s pubs.
The thing I think about when I hear those figures is how much the disadvantaged communities contribute to that number.Gambling counsellor Bobbie Warrington
Twelve months earlier, the clubs had 516 machines, while the pubs had 224.
While it’s a massive turnover through the Tamworth pokies, Anglicare Northern Inland financial gambling counsellor Bobbie Warrington wasn’t completely surprised by the figure.
“The thing I think about when I hear those figures is how much the disadvantaged communities contribute to that number,” she told The Leader.
In her line of work, Ms Warrington sees the damage caused by problem gambling.
“A lot present with with debt collectors hounding them and they’re about to lose their houses or cars,” she said.
“It is also contributes to mental health issues.”
Ms Warrington said some early signs to look out included not having fun gambling anymore and noticing bills go unpaid.
She said pubs and clubs could do more to promote available help.
Ms Warrington said Nathan Hindmarsh’s casual chat about his gambling problems at the Coledale centre last week was very positive event.
Gamblers turning themselves away
MORE people are barring themselves from gaming venues, but that’s no cause for alarm says the chief of Tamworth’s biggest club.
Wests Leagues Club CEO Rod Laing told The Leader more people were signing up for self-exclusion programs in town, which was due to the greater education that’s available.
“From there being next-to-nothing 30 years ago, there is a lot more awareness around,” he said.
Mr Laing said it was important to note overall gaming machine turnover took into account money won on the machine which is subsequently gambled.
Local counsellors and psychologists said Wests led the way with its proactive approach to responsible gambling.
Mr Laing said Wests had run gambling awareness campaigns in its venues, arranging counsellors to be on site and offering information.
He said clubs also offer “pre-commitment expenditure” for gamblers, allowing them to set a limit on how much they want to spend beforehand.
Wests’ combined poker machine profits was $12.279 million for the 2015/16 financial year. The club also paid $2.773 million in payroll and pokie tax.
He said turnover figures for Tamworth in the ILGA report weren’t surprising.
Centacare psychologist and gambling help service manager, Tim Rawson, said self-exclusion was a good measure for those looking to overcome their issues, with people now able to bar themselves from all venues in a town.
When it comes to helping people seeking assistance, Mr Rawson said it was about education on the myths and facts around the machine.
“There’s no such thing as a due machine,” he said. “It’s completely random.”
He said gambling could affect anyone, but did notice some patterns.
“Common presentations are between 20 to 45-years-old and are more commonly male in our region,” he said.
Mr Rawson said the state government should impose maximum spending limits on machines.
- Gambling helpline 1800 858 858