Bundy's $40m pokie problem

BUNDABERG gamblers have poured more than $40 million into poker machines so far this year, according to new figures.

The statistics, released by the Office of Gaming, Liquor and Racing, reveal the state government raked in $40.3 million from January to November 2009 – a more than $1 million increase on the same period last year.

The figures come at a time of global economic crisis, during which welfare charities have reported record numbers of clients.

But they were no surprise to David.

There was once a time when he would get into his car and drive away from a Bundaberg club, smashing his hands on the wheel and promising himself he would never touch the pokies again.

David, who does not want to be known by his full name, repeated this action for years.

He said he would sit down in front of a poker machine and time would become meaningless.

“It’s like what an alcoholic suffers in an alcoholic blackout,” he said.

“I lose all sense of time; I’m in a zone.”

The Bundaberg resident of 30 years had first flirted with his addiction as a 10-year-old.

“I had a gambling experience early at a school fete — it was a lucky dip barrel,” he said.

“I felt alive. I thought people liked me because they were cheering me on for another go.”

When he turned 18 and stepped into local clubs for the first time, his addiction became out of control.

He lost good jobs and family relationships became strained as he spent pay cheque after pay cheque at local pubs and clubs.

David moved to Brisbane in 1999 for a “clean start” and within months he was “homeless, helpless and hopeless”.

“My family loved me enough to say we can’t take this anymore, we don’t want you in our lives anymore,” David said.

It was at that point David decided he needed help and sought out Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

Ten years later David said with the help of GA he feels cured of his urge to gamble.

Lifeline general manager Richard Johnson said most people who played the pokies were responsible gamblers.

But there was a small percentage who did have a problem, and they had the potential to lose a lot of money and affect their families and their own health.

“If people feel they can win money on the pokies that is already a red flag for a problem,” he said.

“Poker machines are geared to take money away from people.”

He said availability was also a factor, with more money being lost where there were more machines.

CQUniversity senior psychology lecturer Dr Matthew Rockloff has been studying problem gamblers for about nine years, and he said the syndrome came down to what he called “the four E’s”.

“That’s escape, esteem, excitement and excess,” he said.

“They use it to escape problems in their lives, and the excitement factor helps them fight boredom.

“Compared to other addictions such as alcohol or drugs, problem gamblers have a higher rate of suicide.”

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