Each week the Bega Valley feeds more than $4million dollars through the pokies and now a local financial counsellor is calling for more to be done to prevent people falling prey to problem gambling.
A Merimbula News Weekly analysis of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s annual report for 2014/2015 shows an increase in turnover from Bega Valley gaming machines of 3.9 per cent.
In the financial year from 2013 to 2014 there were 744 gaming machines in the Bega Valley with a turnover of more than $247million. While there were 12 fewer machines in 2014/2015 the turnover increased by around $9million to more than $256million.
This equates to more than $9000 per person above the age of 15.
While the “turnover” figures refer to the total value of bets made on gaming machines – including bets that are made using credits won during the course of play – the losses are also staggering, equating to roughly $25million or $900 per resident.
These figures use the entire region’s population and no doubt include many people who don’t gamble, or can’t gamble because they’re under 18.
Each day Bega Valley financial counsellor for people experiencing problem gambling Gabrielle Rosengren sees people whose lives have been ruined by gambling, and she fears the problem is only getting worse.
“It’s phenomenal how much people spend, it is actually quite scary and it’s on the increase,” Ms Rosengren said.
“There is no assessment of income or household expenses to gamble and that’s unfortunate because from my observation it’s the people who can least afford it are the people that are gambling the most.”
Ms Rosengren is bombarded with people who are experiencing problem gambling and find themselves in relationship breakdowns, with drug and alcohol addictions, or even homeless because of the addiction.
“I’ve met people that initially only spent $10 on Melbourne Cup then a few years down the track they’re homeless, their family is torn apart, there has been domestic violence and they are accessing homeless services – all been brought about by escalation in gambling.”
Ms Rosengren is now lobbying for a government and community response.
“I think there’s not enough education, I don’t think people are aware of the extent of the problem in the area and I think the clubs could do a bit more.”
Ms Rosengren believes all ATMs should be removed from pubs and clubs with pokies, and for machines to have time limits and pre-selected loss limits.