Self-help on the way for Ballina?s pokie addicts

By DAWN COHEN

UP TO 1200 Ballina Shire residents can now avoid poverty with one signature, thanks to the Ballina Bowling and Recreation Club.

Gambling addicts can sign a form asking the organisation to keep them out of the poker machine rooms for a minimum of 12 months.

"Self-excluding is the hardest thing a gambler can do, because it's admitting their addiction to poker machines," said psychologist Yvonne Corrigan, from the Northern Rivers Gambling Service.

"If compulsive gamblers can't go to any clubs in the local area when the compulsion hits, they get a chance to think and to remember their commitment to not gamble."

NSW laws allow patrons to selfexclude for up to three months.

The bowling club's innovative move takes the assistance one step further by voluntarily extending the time to one year and offering to let other clubs know.

With about three per cent of the community gambling compulsively, an estimated 1200 Ballina Shire residents are pouring their rent and grocery money into the machines.

"Their families and friends suffer, and when they can't pay their bills or when they commit fraud, local businesses are impacted too," said the Bangalow-based psychologist.

Ballina Bowling and Recreation Club secretary-manager David Brann is urging the Ballina RSL Club, the Lennox Head Bowls and Sports Club and the Alstonville Bowling Club to follow suit.

For information on free counselling contact Northern Rivers Gambling Service 66872520 or wwww.nrgs.org.au



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