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Greens release discussion paper on problem gambling and health

Media Release
Richard Di Natale 21 Dec 2011

Greens’ spokesperson for gambling and health, Senator Richard Di Natale, has released a discussion paper that advocates combining harm minimisation measures with treating problem gambling like any other addiction.

“Limiting bets to $1 per spin remains the best way to minimise the harm of pokies addiction,” said Senator Di Natale.

“First and foremost the industry must take responsibility, but there are other avenues for helping problem gamblers that could be explored simultaneously. This discussion paper broadens the debate and seeks to treat problem gambling like any other addiction.”

Pathological gambling behaviour is highly correlated with conditions such as alcohol dependence, depression and personality disorders. There is also growing evidence that physiological and genetic components play a strong role in determining disorderly gambling behaviour.

“A very small number of problem gamblers seek treatment but the high correlation between pathological gambling behaviour and other mental health conditions gives GPs an opportunity to screen for it. However most GPs lack the tools or training to undertake such screening so a vital first step would be to fund an education program for doctors and health professionals."

The AMA recommends this approach and other countries such as Britain and the United States have developed protocols to aid doctors in the treatment of problem gamblers.

“Studies have indicated that as a last resort drugs such as naltrexone may be effective in treating problem gamblers just as they help those with alcohol or drug dependency. This is promising research but more trials need to be conducted to see whether this is a treatment that should be available to more Australians suffering from gambling addiction.

“Given that Australians are the most prolific gamblers in the world, it is high time that we set up a National Gambling Research Centre to coordinate data collection and policy development.”

Media contact: Andrew Blyberg 0457 901 600

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