A 2019 study reported 44,000 Canberrans had experienced harm from their own or someone else’s gambling, while recent reports suggest gambling in different forms may have increased during COVID-19.
That is why Gambling Harm Awareness Week 2020, 19-25 October, is encouraging Canberrans to know the signs of the harm on themselves, their mates or loved ones.
ACT Gambling and Racing Commission Chair, Paul Baxter, said gambling needed to be treated as a public health issue.
“It’s not just the person with the addiction; it’s an impact that extends way beyond that person to family, friends, work colleagues,” he said.
“We are recognising we aren’t saying people just shouldn’t gamble. Realistically, 60% of the people in Canberra have a flutter somewhere in gambling, whether it be in Melbourne Cup or on gaming machines.
“We are focusing on recognising what is happening amongst your friends, and the signs of gambling harm.”
Canberrans are urged to watch for signs of playing after the funds stop, making excuses or hiding how much you play, chasing losses and having less money than you otherwise would.
Mr Baxter said while a COVID-19 lockdown saw the inability to play electronic gaming machines in the ACT, there was an increase in other types of gambling.
“There is evidence to suggest there has been an increase in online gaming, some legal and some illegal, although some people may not recognise those which aren’t legal,” he said.
“Since then, the government has reopened access and there is no doubt people have moved back into using those devices very quickly.
“It will be interesting to see those statistics in months to come.”
Mr Baxter said he also expected some new discussion around gabling and restrictions following the 2020 ACT Election.
“Is there likely to be changes around gambling and policy? There is a new government and probably a new discussion on this issue,” he said.
“There may be an impact upon gambling arrangements in the ACT, and our task will then be to implement that policy.”