Horsham pokie figures: gamblers spend more than $4.9 million

GAMBLERS spent more than $4.9 million on Horsham's electronic gaming machines between July and December last year.

The figure was an increase of more than $184,000 compared with the same period in 2013.

Horsham had a record loss of $9.2 million in 2012-13.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation figures showed decreases in gaming machines expenditure in the Northern Grampians and Ararat municipalities.

Expenditure dropped by more than $171,000 in Northern Grampians Shire for the same period and by more than $49,000 in Ararat.

Grampians Regional Health gambling, alcohol and other drug team manager Carol Henwood said while the number of poker machines in Horsham had not changed, there was an increase in the number of people seeking help.

She said the figures were concerning.

"It is taking money out of the region that could be used on other things," she said.

"But it is an addiction."

Ms Henwood said gambling addiction could be triggered by a number of factors, such as depression, family violence, marriage breakdowns, alcohol and other drugs.

She said the increase in expenditure could be due to the increase in methamphetamine use in the region.

"Ice and gambling go together," she said.

"People could be gambling more to finance their ice addiction."

Ms Henwood said online gambling was also becoming a big problem in the region.

"It is certainly taking over and people needing help can fall through the gaps because it is difficult to capture," she said.

"People can gamble on their phone it is so easy."

Horsham has 148 poker machines spread across Horsham RSL, Horsham Sports and Community Club and West Side Horsham.

"The clubs here are very responsible," Ms Henwood said.

"They are members of our Responsible Gambling Interest Group and will often send people to us for help.

"We have a good relationship, which is rather unique and is a great benefit to the community."

Ms Henwood said more education was needed to curb the increasing trend in gambling addiction.

"People don't see it as a problem," she said.

"They get their children to do the bingo tickets or pick horses at the races, without thinking that it could start an addiction."

Ms Henwood said people could call Grampians Community Health's Gamblers Help on 5362 1200, Wimmera Uniting Care's Gamblers Help financial counselling on 5362 4000, access the 24-hour Gamblers Helpline at www.gamblinghelponline.org.au or call 1800 858 858.

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