GambleAware message asks community to look behind their screens

This GambleAware Week, punters, their friends and families are being asked to consider how gambling behaviour has changed, moving out of social spaces and going behind screens – making it harder to spot the signs something is wrong.

With recent data showing a 12 percent increase in gaming machine profits across NSW in June, July and August, after the lockdown period ended, COVID has also played a significant role in other changes linked to increased gambling.

Natalie Wright, Director Office of Responsible Gambling said GambleAware Week, from 19 to 25 October, provides an opportunity for people to reflect on their gambling and for friends and family to identify the signs someone’s gambling may be getting out of hand.

“For most people gambling is an occasional activity that provides a bit of entertainment, but for some it can become problematic,” Ms Wright said.

“As much of this activity now happens behind a screen, and with fewer face to face catch ups out in public, it’s easy to miss or disguise the signs that you or someone you know may be in trouble.”

Two recent studies have indicated that COVID-related stress and financial difficulties have impacted the way some people gamble.

A University of Sydney study found that gamblers experiencing COVID stress were more likely to increase the amount they were gambling, while a survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that people gambled more during COVID - and that they gambled more online.

This year’s event is timed just before the NRL and AFL grand finals and during the midst of the Spring Racing Carnival.

“Plenty of people enjoy a punt during finals. We’re not saying don’t gamble – just be gamble aware,” Ms Wright said.

“Gambling becomes an issue when it is more than just a bit of fun, or when it starts to impact on your relationships or your finances. Being gamble aware provides the opportunity to spot the signs before a problem develops.”

To mark GambleAware Week 2020, the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling has launched an interactive Checkmate Trivia game on its website, responsiblegambling.nsw.gov.au/checkmates.

“Learn how to spot risky gambling behaviours by visiting the website and get expert tips so you can check in with friends, colleagues or loved ones.”

The Gambling Help NSW hotline 1800 858 858 is open 24 hours a day. It is free and confidential.