Bundy's pokie shame

MILLIONS of dollars are disappearing down Bundaberg's poker machines each month and the huge amounts spent show no sign of decreasing.

More than $38.6 million was spent on poker machines between January and October this year - more than $2 million more than for the same period last year.

In 2010 more than $44.5 million was spent on pokies for the whole year and in 2009 about $43.9 million was bundled into the slot machines.

The huge figure means that if every person in the region played the pokies this year, they would have each spent about $430.

United Community Care Wide Bay area manager Tanya Stevenson said it was difficult to determine how many people in a community had a gambling problem.

"Gambling addiction is normally secretive," she said.

"It's not really something that people would admit to."

Ms Stevenson said the numbers spent per month seemed quite high.

She said as a counsellor it was not often people came to see them about gambling addictions in Bundaberg.

Ms Stevenson said it was also difficult for friends and family to identify that someone close to them had a gambling problem.

"It is not until they start borrowing money because they can't pay their rent or something that people notice," she said.

"They make up excuses why they have to borrow the money."

She said one of the many signs was if a person started to gamble on their own or started missing other social activities because they would rather gamble.

"They think they are just going to stop when they win back their money but that is never the case," she said.

Bundaberg community campaigner Mary Walsh has been running a long battle against pokie machines.

The former councillor believes more money should be returned to areas where the cash was spent through the community benefit fund.

"It's at about five or six cents in every dollar spent at the moment," she said.

"I think it's important that it comes back because they communities do suffer at the hands of gambling, especially the charity dollar," she said.

Mrs Walsh said gambling problems also hurt small businesses.

"With less cash to spend because of gambling people are less likely to shop or donate to charity," she said.

Mrs Walsh said she did not believe pokies should be removed because they did help local clubs.

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