Residents spend $20 million a year on pokies

By SAM BENGERsamb@gladstoneobserver.dyndns.org

GLADSTONE residents are putting more money through poker machines than ever before, losing more than $1.4 million in January alone.

Ironically, the same amount was allocated to the Gladstone Hospital this week as part of the state government's plan to upgrade our health system.

According to figures released by the Queensland Office of Gaming Regulations, Gladstone residents put almost $16 million through poker machines at 12 venues in 2005, while Calliope Shire residents notched up more than $5 million on gaming machines at seven locations.

This compares to figures just two years earlier which showed that Gladstone residents lost about $10 million at the pokies, while Calliope residents lost close to $7 million ? an increase of about $4 million in two years.

Gladstone has 431 operational electronic gaming machines (EGMs), and is approved to have 448, while Calliope has 83 operational EGMs and is approved to have 87.

Despite the figures, a survey of 30,000 peo- ple released by the state government claims the number of problem gamblers is on the decrease.

In 2001, 0.83 per cent of Queenslanders were problem gamblers, compared to just 0.55 per cent, or 16,000 people, today.

The majority of respondents (72.4 per cent) described themselves as recreational gamblers, while 20 per cent said they never gambled.

Treasurer Anna Bligh said that no one re- gion in the state stood out as a problem, with all reflecting similar figures.

But according to the Gladstone branch of Gamblers Anonymous, the issue of problem gambling will not go away, and it's not until compulsive gamblers hit "rock bottom'' that they begin to seek help.



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