COLAC punters are spending more money at the pokies, with the city’s gaming machines guzzling $7.47 million last financial year.
The figure is up from the previous year’s $7.34 million, but still below Colac’s record high of $7.77 million in 2008-09.
Colac has 110 poker machines, which are at the Austral and Union hotels, Colac RSL, and Colac and City bowling clubs.
Colac’s Salvation Army captain Cameron Horsburgh said the latest statistics were alarming.
“We see the impact of excessive gambling and it has far-reaching effects, from families who can’t pay the bills to children who miss out on school things and new uniforms because their parents are spending that money elsewhere,” Mr Horsburgh said.
“For a lot of the cases we see, gambling is an underlying issue but few people come out and say they have a problem,” he said.
“And unfortunately it’s the poorer people who end up paying the biggest price when they really can’t afford to.”
Bethany Community Support offers its gamblers’ help program at Colac Area Health. Bethany chief Grant Boyd said gambling expenses put pressure on families already struggling financially.
“With an increase in the cost of living, particularly around utilities and food prices, there are families having more trouble and problem gambling only adds to that,” Mr Boyd said.
“It’s still a relatively low rate in Colac, but our agency is always concerned with increased expenditure on gambling, and while for most people it’s recreational, it’s problematic for others,” he said.
Gamblers pump $2.95 million through hotel’s 22 machines
More people spent money at the Union Hotel’s 22 poker machines than anywhere else in Colac, with a total expenditure of $2.95 million last financial year.
The Austral Hotel’s 23 machines received the second-highest amount, $1.84 million, followed by City Bowls Club, $927,365, Colac Bowling Club, $909,328, and Colac RSL, $846,932.
Colac Bowling Club president Jeff Turner said proceeds from poker machines went back into the club.
“Bowling clubs have a different set-up to pubs and gaming places, all of our money goes back to our members and the public,” Mr Turner said.
“And as of August or September we’ll have our brand new synthetic green installed, and that was a $200,000 project funded fully by the club, so that’s where pokies money goes,” he said.
“We also pay for a group of people recovering from strokes to come down once a week from Barwon Health and play some bowls.
“So it’s not just a one-sided debate, most people just come in for a flutter and we don’t promote the club as a gaming venue, it’s a bowling club first and foremost.”