Warren Lynam

Fitzroy pokies fling: $100m

IT may have been tough times for Central Queenslanders this year, but Fitzroy punters have poured a record amount into pokie machines.

In the previous two years the amount was below $95 million.

But to the end of November in 2011 people have splashed out more than $99 million and there's still December's take to consider, according to Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation figures.

At current rates the region will soar through the $100 million mark for the first time in a calendar year.

The gambling comes as community welfare organisations face an increasing demand for their services because more people are struggling to make ends meet.

Salvation Army Captain Peter McGuigan said the number of families needing support this Christmas had risen.

Capt McGuigan has seen many people's lives destroyed by gambling (see accompanying report)

However, Clubs Queensland CEO Doug Flockhart argued the increased spending ran against state trends and illustrated the region's rising population and increased affluence generated by the booming resources sector.

The industry is waiting for the Federal Government to release draft legislation regarding the future management of poker machines.

A pre-commitment system is set to be trialled.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said problem gamblers were six times more likely to be divorced.

They were four times more likely to have problems with alcohol.

She said one in six people who played the pokies regularly had a serious addiction.

"The actions of one problem gambler negatively impacts the lives of between five and 10 others.

"This means there are up to five million Australians who could be affected by problem gambling each year - including friends, family and employers of problem gamblers," Ms Macklin said.

"Only around 15% of problem gamblers seek help."

If you have a gambling problem call the Salvation Army Gambling hotline on phone 1800858858.

Pokie punt

What Fitzroy people poured into poker machines:

2009: $94,675,700

2010: $94,825,260

2011: $99,265,536 (with December still to go)

Source: Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation