For most people, punting on a footy match or putting a few dollars into a pokie is harmless.
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This GambleAware Week, Lifeline Central West is calling on the Dubbo community to think about the true costs of gambling and to check in with friends, family and colleagues.
"It is critical because the impact of gambling is much greater than most people realise," Dubbo gambling counsellor Warwick Harrison said.
The theme for this year's GambleAware Week - which starts on Monday, October 16 - is 'What's gambling costing you?'.
"The theme reflects not just the money side of it, but what it's costing you in terms of relationships, in terms of work," Mr Harrison said.
"When it becomes a problem, you end up being secretive about what you're doing and that's incredibly damaging to your mental health when you're trying to be this person here and that person there.
"You can see the relief in people when they come in and they actually just admit to me and then to their spouse that, hang on, things aren't right."
Mr Harrison said while sports betting apps and other forms of online gambling rose in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, poker machines remain the biggest driver of addiction in Dubbo.
In 2022, people in Dubbo lost more money to pokies than any other year on record, data from Liquor and Gaming NSW reveals.
Throughout 2022, punters in the local government area put over $51.7 million into pokie machines, or around $1,000 per resident. This was a significant rise on 2021 when people in the Dubbo area spent around $40.3 million on the pokies.
GambleAware Far and Western Project Coordinator Jacinta Cullen said young people in particular are facing increased exposure to gambling.
"Sports betting, gambling advertising or even gambling-like kids' games are all becoming more prevalent, so it's important we use this week to increase awareness of gambling behaviours in ourselves and others, including our kids," she said.
GambleAware Far and Western will be hosting various activities in Dubbo during GambleAware Week to educate parents and the wider community about the risks of gambling harm.
Free GambleAware giveaways, information kits and resources will also be available at the Dubbo Neighbourhood Centre on 31 to 33 Church Street.
"We know that for some people, gambling can certainly have real financial impacts, but we are encouraging people to think about the bigger picture," Ms Cullen said.
"If gambling is impacting your mental or physical health, making you miss time at work, causing tension in your family home, those are costs that still matter.
"This GambleAware Week we're encouraging the Dubbo community to think about all the costs of gambling, and importantly we encourage everyone to speak up and have those early conversations with friends or loved ones if you are concerned."
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