Mitchell Shire spent more than $50 000 on poker machines every day in the 2017-18 financial year.
Shire residents contributed to the concerning rise of gambling losses nationally, with electronic gaming machine expenditure increasing to more than $12 billion for the same period.
The upwards trend has prompted the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) to start a gambling, drug and alcohol support group in Seymour.
The support group is for families and friends of a someone with a gambling, alcohol or other drug problem.
Monthly meetings will provide information on several topics including mental health, establishing boundaries, managing finances, gambling harm and professional resources for further support.
SHARC gambling project officer Angela Ireland said people needed to know they were not alone.
“Keeping an addiction secretive only makes it worse. The more it is swept under the carpet, the more it spirals,” Ms Ireland said.
“People don’t get the help they need because addiction is not often spoken about. It gets swept under the rug and hidden.
“Part of that is because regional Victoria doesn’t have a lot of addiction support services, so we want to offer them.
“Once people get support, things change, and they have a different outlook on life. Australians are the world’s biggest losers when it comes to gambling, so something needs to change.”
Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation research has found one thing driving the increase in gambling in Australia was the prevalence of internet and app-based wagering.
There were 136 918 gambling adverts on Australian commercial free-to-air TV in 2016, an average of 374 adverts per day.
Most gambling adverts (66 per cent) were between 6 am and 8.30 pm when large numbers of children are known to be watching TV. And most of that advertising (86 per cent) was on programming not related to sport.
Ms Ireland said research found children aged eight to 16 years were able to recall the names of sports betting brands such as Sportsbet, Bet365 and TAB due to team sponsorship and on-field advertising.
“Gambling is more accessible than ever for anyone, anytime, available 24/7 on the internet via a smartphone or desktop computer,” she said.
“Children are exposed to gambling ads on an extraordinary scale, during sports and online. This is influencing their perspective and behaviours.
“Gambling has changed to become all-pervasive in society. The harm isn’t just about losing money, it can affect how someone feels, their self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health.”
Another concerning trend SHARC has noticed is the emergence of betting and gambling in video games.
Ms Ireland said simulated gambling within video games such as NBA2K20 and Red Dead Redemption 2 exposed children to the world of gambling to enhance play.
“Popular games such as DOTA2 and League of Legends are all subject to these traps, exposing children to the world of gambling,” she said.
“Many of these games use virtual money in a gambling-type scenario, however this can create a misunderstanding of virtual cash and real cash as the currency does not match.
“Many parents and grandparents purchase these games for children, unaware of this content, feeling they are an innocent form of fun.
“Coupled with a sporting culture, gambling sponsorships and advertising, video gaming is quickly emerging as an industry where gambling conglomerates are shifting their focus to a younger, more influential audience.
“Children are being groomed through sport and online gaming to become problem gamblers of the future.”
The Seymour support group will meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Chittick Park in Pollard St, near the sports and aquatic centre, from 6 pm to 8 pm.
The first meeting was planned for April 7 but may not go ahead due to restrictions on public gatherings because of COVID-19.
For more information and to find out when the meetings will officially begin, phone 1300 660 068.
If you know someone who needs help or would like to talk to someone about gambling, phone 1800 858 858.