Many gamblers helped by lockdown, says counsellor
The coronavirus lockdown has helped many gamblers see that there is life beyond the pokies, according to gambling counsellor Mr Chris Davidson.
Mr Davidson has been offering counselling online since his office at Central Coast Gambling Services at the Peninsula Community Centre closed with the lockdown.
He said he dealt primarily with locals struggling with an addiction to poker machines.
"We received a huge spike in clients in crisis when the closure was first announced in March, but since then, we've had a lot of clients reporting that this reprieve has been a good thing for them," he said.
"It's helped them
He said that many had been breaking new ground in dealing with their addiction since the lockdown.
Mr Davidson said that what many of his clients were currently experiencing was akin to a detox, with many coming out the other side of it with a better understanding of themselves.
"We're seeing a lot of clients come to the realisation that they had other issues that led them to the pokies.
"Whether it was depression, anxiety or another mental health issue, the pokies were an escape, and without pokies, some are identifying why they became addicts," he said.
Mr Davidson believed that local addicts could get on top of their addiction if given more time to adjust to a world without pokies.
"As a behavioural addiction, gambling isn't like other addictions.
"Addicts become hooked on the feelings they associate with the way they gamble, and they can be very different.
"Someone addicted to the pokies isn't likely to suddenly take up betting for instance, because they invoke different feelings.
"That isn't to say that suddenly forcing an addict to go cold turkey won't cause them panic, but it's easier to overcome than say an alcohol addiction, where the addict can accept any kind of drink if they're desperate enough.
"That's not the case for gaming machine addicts at all," Mr Davidson said.
Mr Davidson said the nature of addiction was all-consuming, and he believed that many of his clients would return to gambling once venues reopened.
"For all the clients who have made breakthroughs, there's another just waiting to get back into it.
"I had one woman telling me about how all the money she saved was going to make for one big hit once she could get back in the chair.
"Others have turned to online gambling.
"At the end of the day, all we can do is support people to make better decisions and encourage those who have learned that they can survive without gambling," Chris said.
Interview (Dilon Luke), 30 Apr 2020
Chris Davidson, Central Coast Gambling Services