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Cowboys’ star Matthew Scott is helping to tackle Townsville’s growing gambling crisis

Matthew Scott

Matthew Scott: “There is no denying gambling is a part of our society and it can be fun to do with mates on the weekend, but it’s when it starts getting out of hand and having a larger impact on your life and relationships; it’s knowing that it’s okay to ask for help”.

RUGBY league star Matthew Scott has joined forces with social services organisation Centacare North Queensland to tackle the region’s gambling crisis.

Working in the community as its official Gambling Help ambassador, Mr Scott was out and about in Townsville and Mount Isa to raise awareness of responsible gambling as part of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week held nationally from July 24-30.

The partnership is one element of a larger community awareness campaign developed by Centacare NQ which focuses on supporting problem gamblers to know free and confidential support is available to them and their family to get back on track.

Centacare NQ executive director Peter Monaghan said the partnership played a crucial role in reaching everyone in the community, from young sports fans to those young at heart, to understand what it meant to gamble responsibly.

“More than $100 million was spent on poker machines in Townsville and the North West Region in 2016 alone, which doesn’t include any figures from online betting, so it could be considerably higher,” he said.

Ninety-six million dollars was spent on electronic gaming machines in Townsville in the 2016 calendar year.

In the same period, $24.5 million was spent on the machines in Mount Isa and Cloncurry.

“Partnering with Matt is one way we encourage friends, family, parents, teachers, sporting coaches and everyone in the community to acknowledge that while gambling is part of our lifestyle, it’s important to be informed about the practical ways to gamble without harm,” Mr Monaghan said.

Mr Scott said he looked forward to championing the responsible gambling message to help the community.

“There is no denying gambling is a part of our society and it can be fun to do with mates on the weekend, but it’s when it starts getting out of hand and having a larger impact on your life and relationships; it’s knowing that it’s okay to ask for help,” he said.

“Asking for help isn’t a sign of ‘weakness’ or that anything is necessarily wrong, but a good opportunity to learn strategies around how to manage your gambling better before it destroys your life on a grand scale.”

Centacare NQ’s campaign takes a practical approach with the distribution of Wallet Mates to clubs and venues.

Gambling Help program manager Rebecca Brown said the Wallet Mates served as a reminder for people to replace their credit or debit cards with it in their wallet to limit spending.

“Wallet Mates are a subtle, yet very practical way, we’re helping problem gamblers to limit their spending habits for gambling,” she said.

“If they have reached their spending limit, the card works to remind them not to go to the ATM or spend more, and to call us instead.”

The campaign is supported by a range of free online resources including a downloadable self-help eBook “Beat The Odds Against Gambling” offering tools and tips on how to gamble responsibly, plus strategies on how to cut back to regain control, all available at www.centacarenq.org.au/gambling.

Centacare NQ’s Gambling Help program is a Queensland Government initiative.

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