Regional gambling support is a safe bet

August 3, 2023

Gambling - the more you play, the more you lose, and it is not always just money.


While plenty of people can safely enjoy gambling, others are more vulnerable and for them, the outcome can be devastating, says UnitingCare’s Gambling Help Service.


Last year, gamblers in Cairns and Far North Queensland lost more than $205 million on the poker machines in local clubs and hotels, in Wide Bay region lost more than $163 million and gamblers in Central and Central West Queensland lost more than $154 million.


And across all forms of gambling which includes casinos, pokies, kenos, lotteries and wagering, Queenslanders in total lost $5.83 billion in 2022.


This Gambling Harm Awareness Week (24-30 July 2023) the Gambling Help Service wants locals to know, if you are struggling, reaching out for support is the safest bet to make.


UnitingCare Gambling Help Service Counsellor Wil McAllister said the harm that gambling can cause extends well beyond just financial impacts.


‘The damage problem gambling causes goes far beyond financial troubles,’ said Ms McAllister.


‘When gambling has become problematic, a person can spend hours and hours on it, neglecting other parts of their life, and that is what we want to help stop and support,’ she said.


UnitingCare’s Gambling Help Service is free and available to people throughout the regions, who want to start taking control of their gambling and turn things around.


In the short term this involves developing strategies to protect their finances. However, the real work is in understanding and addressing why they gamble, because harmful gambling is a symptom, not the core of the problem.‘When someone is gambling in a way that causes harm, there’s usually an underlying cause,’ explained Ms McAllister.


‘Perhaps they are lonely, or experiencing stress, anxiety or depression. They are trying to make themselves feel better and, thanks to the dopamine hit their brain gets, gambling achieves that in the short term.


‘Unfortunately, due to the way certain brain chemicals operate, what some people use to soothe ends up becoming an addiction,’ she said.


While recovery is possible, it can be complicated which is why ongoing support is beneficial.


‘On some days, perhaps after a big night on the pokies, a person might feel very motivated to change, and get in touch for some support,’ Ms McAllister said.


‘Other times they might convince themselves that they can manage their gambling and don’t need to quit.


‘Then a bad day might change their mind again. That’s where we come in, we are there and can walk with them for that whole journey to support them each step of the way,’ said Ms McAllister.


In addition to individual counselling, the service also offers group therapy sessions.


‘It’s a good way for us to reach more people’.


The counsellors also have strong relationships with the venues in their local area.


‘On occasion we will wander around the venues and chat to people, and we find some people take our card and call us the very next day.’


‘If your gambling is causing problems in your life, it’s not a sign of weakness,’ says Wil. ‘Help is available and change is possible if you reach out and take that first step.’


The Gambling Help Service is a free service for the people of Cairns, Wide Bay and Central West.


If you or someone you know is being harmed by gambling, you can contact the Gambling Help Service:


Cairns and Far North07 4050 4988
or outside of office hours the 24-hour Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858


Wide Bay Burnett07 4191 3100
or outside of office hours the 24-hour Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858


Central West via Ray – 0498 000 325
or outside of office hours the 24-hour Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858