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Australia Launches Online Support for Problem Gamblers

12th October 2009 8:13 am GMT

As state and territory governments across Australia herald the launch of a new national online support service for problem gamblers, the Victorian Gaming Minister has warned that the general public and gamblers need to have confidence in the integrity of sport, as controversy continues to rage over allegations that Australian Football League teams have been intentionally setting out to lose in end-of-season games.

An initiative of the Ministerial Council on Gambling, GamblingHelpOnline.org.au has been launched to provide a co-operative national approach to help people take control of their gambling, providing online and email support to problem gamblers and their families 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

"For the first time, Australians now have online access to qualified gambling counsellors who can provide assistance through either live online counselling or email," said Jenny Macklin, Victoria's Federal Community Services Minister.

Users have the option to seek assistance anonymously or to register so they can keep a record of their discussions. Ms Macklin said the new initiative would help gambling support services to keep pace with new technologies, such as online betting.

Victorian Gaming Minister Tony Robinson said Victoria had taken the lead on the development of Gambling Help Online and was responsible for its ongoing management.

"The Brumby Government is taking action to tackle the personal and social cost of gambling by ensuring problem gamblers and their families have access to a comprehensive range of support services," he said.

"Gambling Help Online provides a safe, confidential and non-threatening environment for problem gamblers and those affected by gambling to get the support they need to take control."

The site also contains useful tools such as a risk assessment survey to work out the extent of an individual's gambling, as well as a gambling calculator which adds up potential losses over a year.

Meanwhile controversy continues to rage over the integrity of sport in Australia, following an investigation into Australian Football League teams that were setting out to lose games on purpose.

According to former players and coaches, several AFL teams have underperformed during the latter course of the season when there is little to play for, allowing the team to benefit from better draft picks for the following season.

Gaming Minister Tony Robinson said that the image of sport in the state had to be safeguarded at all costs and planned to discuss the recent controversies with other ministers.

"I have said this to the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation and I will say this publicly, the damage that would be done to the confidence Victorians have in organised sport by an untoward episode or two would be very considerate," Mr Robinson told The Age newspaper.

''I have asked for an update from the VCGR as to the AFL's response and considered position on this and that's something I look forward to having a look at and its something I am sure I will be discussing with other ministers,'' he said.

The gambling commission is investigating the issue under its responsibilities to maintain the integrity of gambling in Victoria. A report on its findings will be made public once the investigation has concluded.

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