A GAMBLING support expert says Colac people who can least afford to lose money are blowing more than $600,000 a month on pokies.
Colac and district people spent $3.94 million on the city’s poker machines in the second half of last year, which is steady on the $3.92 million they spent during the same period in 2010.
Bethany Community Support chief Grant Boyd said the type of people who were gambling was more concerning than the latest figures.
Bethany offers its gamblers’ help program in Colac.
Mr Boyd said 65 per cent of Bethany’s clients earned less than $40,000 a year, half of them were not working at all, and a third had a health care card.
He said that while Colac’s losses were “stable” compared with the previous year, it was the people who were losing money that was the most worrying trend.
“If you look at the socio-economic make up of Colac it is probably a community that has less capacity to afford those losses,” Mr Boyd said.
“I would think it would have more of an impact in a community like Colac,” he said.
“A fairly significant portion of Colac’s $4 million losses is going to have come from problem gamblers.
“The concerning thing is the amount of those losses that are coming from people who can’t afford to lose the money.
“The people who are seeking assistance through gamblers’ help are on lower incomes and therefore are least likely to be able to afford their gambling losses.”
Mr Boyd said Federal Government figures showed one in six people who played pokies regularly had a serious addiction.
He said pokies remained the most popular form of gambling.
“Pokies still make up the majority of gambling even though we’ve got new things like online and so forth – poker machines are still far and away the most popular,” Mr Boyd said.
“About three quarters of people who come to gamblers’ help have problems related to poker machines,” he said.
Mr Boyd said one of the major impacts of problem gambling was at home.
“One concern we have as an organisation is the impact on children in families,” Mr Boyd said.
“Kids who grow up with a parent who is a problem gambler are 10 times more likely to have problems gambling themselves,” he said.
Mr Boyd said most people gambled responsibly but he said the small percentage of problem gamblers caused a significant impact, with the social costs of problem gambling “estimated to be $4.7 billion across Australia”.
“Half to one per cent of the total population have a problem but the impacts on those people can be very significant,” he said.