Julie McDermott, a Family Support counsellor, has warned that young people are in real danger of becoming trapped by online gambling due to its ready availability. It also raises the fear that problem gamblers are being caught unawares by online gambling and are waiting too long to seek help.
Online gambling is the fastest growing form of gambling in the country with its accessibility through mobile phones.
The Wagga Family Support counsellor said, "It's going to affect a lot of people - and mainly teenagers. It is just so easy to do it."
Latest figures available suggest that online gambling is worth an estimated $1 billion in Australia per year, with many Aussies accessing services through overseas gambling websites such as poker. Setting up a gambling website is currently illegal in Australia.
Ms McDermott said that she had personally dealt with many people who have torn their lives apart with problem gambling and literally lost everything. The risk to many vulnerable people in the community is high due to the fact that online gambling can be linked directly to their bank account.
"It is very easy for people to spend a large amount of money as they are not physically touching it," she said. "Unfortunately many do not seek help until the problem is quite severe. We very much need to get in there earlier before it becomes that way. We need to communicate the message that there is no stigma and it's not embarrassing to reach out for help. The consequences are just too severe."
Problem Gambling in Australia
- Around 70% of Aussies participate in gambling each year
- 40% of all money in poker machines is from 'problem gamblers'
- Gambling's social cost is at least $4.7 billion per year
Source : The Daily Advertiser, 8 April 2015