THE popularity of smartphones has fuelled a rise in the number of problem gamblers who now have easy and instant access to online gambling sites, warns a Mornington peninsula counselling service.
Alvin Efklidis, of Gamblers Help Southern, has warned that measures to reduce the harm of poker machines are not targeting the growing online sector.
“In terms of problem gambling, poker machines are still the biggest form of gambling, but online gambling is rapidly growing and with the technology that’s available to everyone, such as mobile phones, it’s at the fingertips all the time,” he said.
“Most people are not aware of just how relentless the online bookmakers are, offering free bets to people who sign up and all sorts of offers and inducements. It’s very worrying.”
Gamblers Help Southern, the largest problem gambling service in Victoria, will make a submission to the state government’s just-opened review of gaming machine harm minimisation measures.
Mr Efklidis said there was high demand for gambling counselling services in Frankston and on the Mornington Peninsula, where its “priority target group” of tradies had a “cultural” tendency to head to a drinking venue and gamble after work.
But he said that at least 15 per cent of problems gamblers were online gamblers, and that more resources should be directed to reducing the harm of, and easy access to, that form of gambling. Since the smartphone technology was introduced a few years ago, the temptation to gamble was now everywhere.
The Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation consultation paper, which focuses on poker machine gambling, is asking for feedback on key areas of reducing gambling harm such as access to cash in gaming venues, cashless gaming and ticket-in, ticket-out systems, self-exclusion programs and regional and municipal limits on gaming machine numbers.
Mr Efklidis said an important component of the review was the investigation of the training of venue staff to respond to problematic behaviours.
He said some venue operators could “do more” to embrace the concept of responsible gambling and actively promote this within their business.