Data reveals that remote venues bear the brunt of the largest pokies losses in the NT.

Problem Gamblers Urged to Seek Help Ahead of Christmas as NT Poker Machine Spending Reaches $150 Million

Researchers and welfare groups are urging “problem gamblers” in the Northern Territory (NT) to seek assistance before the holiday season, as data reveals that nearly $150 million was spent on poker machines in the region during the past financial year. The average daily spending on pokies amounted to $411,000, representing a $15 million increase compared to the previous year.

According to the NT’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, almost half of the losses occurred in Darwin, where there are 722 machines across 31 venues. However, it is noteworthy that gamblers spent the most money per poker machine in areas outside major regional towns like Nhulunbuy and highway roadhouses.

Anglicare NT chief executive Craig Kelly expressed concern about the impact of gambling on individuals, particularly during the Christmas period. He emphasized that stressors such as financial difficulties and loneliness can exacerbate gambling habits. Kim Caudwell, a senior lecturer in psychology at Charles Darwin University, added that some problem gamblers may feel isolated from their loved ones during the festive season, leading them to rely on gambling as a coping mechanism.

Government data also reveals a slight increase in pokies losses each December, followed by a decrease in January. Over the past three financial years, a total of $430 million was spent on NT poker machines.

Dr. Caudwell highlighted that gambling addiction goes beyond the desire to win money, as some individuals view it as an escape from their everyday problems and stresses. He also mentioned that certain venues intentionally remove clocks and offer refreshments to encourage prolonged gambling.

Anglicare has witnessed the devastating consequences of gambling addiction, including individuals losing their homes and valuable assets. Mr. Kelly emphasized that problem gambling is a significant issue in the NT.

Australia is renowned for its widespread use of poker machines, with New South Wales alone housing over 91,600 machines. Dr. Caudwell acknowledged that gambling is deeply ingrained in Australian culture, and while attitudes are changing, it will take time to disentangle the country’s relationship with gambling.

In the past financial year, the NT government collected $48.4 million in gaming machine taxes from pubs and clubs, as well as an additional $15.1 million from casinos and hotels for a “community benefit levy.” These funds support ongoing support programs and research related to problem gambling.

In conclusion, the prevalence of poker machine spending in the NT highlights the need for problem gamblers to seek help, especially during the holiday season. The impact of gambling addiction extends beyond financial losses, affecting individuals’ emotional well-being and relationships. Efforts to address this issue include raising awareness, providing support programs, and implementing regulations to mitigate the harm caused by excessive gambling.

About the Author

Michael Franchi is a journalist for ABC News, covering various topics including gambling and its impact on society. With extensive experience in reporting on social issues, Franchi aims to shed light on important matters and encourage discussions that lead to positive change.

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