Gambling-addict grandma helping others kick the habit
A great-grandmother who stole from her friend while in the grip of a gambling addiction is now helping other problem gamblers kick the habit.
She told her story to A Current Affair amid renewed calls for an overhaul of Australia's gambling sector.
Elizabeth, 73, said she lost count of how much she put through the pokies at the height of her addiction.
"Sometimes I would lie to my children about why I didn't have money," she said.
After her divorce, she was kindly taken in by her best friend.
But when she ran out of money, she did the unthinkable to fuel her habit.
"One day I lost my wage," she said.
"I thought the reason I'm not winning is because I haven't got enough money.
"So I went back home and I stole some of her money."
Elizabeth said she was able to break her cycle of addiction after attending sessions run by Gamblers Anonymous, and now she counsels other problem gamblers over the phone.
"It is possible to stop gambling," she said.
"If you put in as much work to try and stop gambling, as you to try and go, you'll make it, easy. It's possible."
Melbourne dad Matthew lost more than $30,000 in just a handful of months, gambling at the casino.
It contributed to his marriage breakdown - the family home had to be sold, and now the 32-year-old is back living with his parents.
"My family didn't know, my friends didn't know, it was all kept very hidden from them," he said.
He has since barred himself from entering the casino, placing his own name on a banned list.
"I can go to the bars and the restaurants, all that sort of things," he said.
"But anything to do with the gaming floor, I'm just not allowed to go inside."
Australia has just 0.3 per cent of the world's population, but close to 20 per cent of the world's pokie machines.
Nationally, we lose $24 billion a year - more than 30 per cent higher than the next in line, Singapore.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform is calling for an overhaul on the pokies, and pushing for major sporting codes to cut ties with sports-better sponsorships.
The University of Sydney's Dr Sally Gainsbury is from the Brain and Mind Centre, which has seen great success offering treatment for gambling addicts.
"People present for treatment and we involve them in what's called 'psycho-education', when we learn about how the gambling outcomes are determined," she said.
"And we also work on behavioural strategies. So things like actually changing the route home so you're not tempted by walking past a gambling venue."
Monash University public health and preventative medicine associate professor Charles Livingstone said eventually, addicts did not play the pokies for money.
"Many people start the pokies because they think they might win some money," he said.
"But by the time they get into the full-blown addiction, sadly, they're there because the dopamine hit is what they're after."
Read a statement from the Gaming Technologies Association here.
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