Gambling apps causing ‘social dysfunction’

THE popularity of online betting and gambling apps is increasing, and a Binna Burra-based counselling service is seeing more and more young men becoming addicted.

The Buttery Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service manager Emma Ryan said it mainly impacted on men in their 20s and 30s, generally working on a good income and often with a sporting background.

Ms Ryan described these new ways of gambling as "insidious" because they were so easily accessible at any time of the day or night.

"To play pokies you need to go to a venue to do that, you can't do that sitting at work or home," she said.

"If people have issues with pokies they can set up exclusions ... a database where if people wish to exclude themselves from specific venues, it gives the staff permission to remove the clients if they have a wobble and go on the premises.

"It's a really useful tool, whereas many online betting services don't offer this."

Ms Ryan said the easy accessibility to gambling apps and online services made staying away all that more difficult.

"Another point is, I just worked with a client who had gone through believing he cancelled all of his accounts with different online betting services, and he received an email from one of them saying they would give him one free bet, and after being gamble-free for nearly three months he had a big lapse and spent a lot of money.

"Closing accounts is the best thing to do, and the rest is supporting them working through the addictions, understanding their triggers and making sure there are support networks there."

Queensland MP Billy Gordon told The Australian that gaming apps had taken off in remote communities.

"Gambling is becoming a greater problem everywhere in Australia, but it is more pronounced in the communities because of the other social issues that exist and feed into the social dysfunction," he said.

"It only takes a few minutes to download the app and set up an account and people are jumping at it."

If you are affected by problem gambling, call The Buttery on 6687 2520 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

It is a free counselling service that covers the Northern Rivers area from Tweed down to Maclean and out to Kyogle, with offices in Lismore, Byron and Tweed Heads.

The statewide Gambling Help service is also available on 1800 858 858 or through their website.

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