Did you know people with disabilities are at a much higher risk of developing problem gambling? 1 Yet, limited information about this risk has been available for people with disabilities and the people who support them.
Of the disability support workers we surveyed only 30% were aware of the increased risks of problem gambling for people with disabilities, yet 60% reported that they attend Pokies and TAB venues with the people they supported. This is not surprising, because in East Gippsland, like most rural places, the only place you can get a well-priced, decent meal is at a pub, of which the majority also have pokies and the TAB.
Equal Access Extra Risk is a grassroots project that aimed to highlight the risks of electronic gambling amongst people with disabilities. It came about through discussions by a group of people with disabilities, their families and a Gambler’s Help counsellor to “do something” about this important issue.
With the support of the Gippsland Regional Communication Service, the group created a 30 minute presentation about the higher risks of problem gambling for people with disabilities and strategies to reduce this risk. The intended audience was people with disabilities without gambling problems and their support people who often guide decision making around leisure activities for people they support.
A Building Inclusive Communities grant was secured from the East Gippsland Shire Council which enabled the presenters with disabilities to be paid for their work. Eight presentations occurred across East Gippsland and one in Sale, Wellington. Venues included Adult Training and Support Services and Planned Activity Groups. A total of 127 people with disabilities and 25 support workers were reached.
The presentation had an impact on its audience with participants sharing their experiences. “I thought once a week would be fine (to go to the Pokies). I also thought everybody was the same, no one group would have more of a problem with gambling,” said a support worker from Bairnsdale.
Following the presentation many support workers reported they would change their work practices including choosing venues without pokies machines. “(I will) source venues who offer cheaper meals that don’t have pokies machines,” said a support worker from Lakes Entrance. Others reported to be more aware of the increased risks of problem gaming for people with disability.
The presenters reported positively about their experiences taking part in this project. “I’m proud, “I’m happy,” presenter Peter Ward said about doing this presentation.
Equal Access Extra Risk is a project that promoted community participation, leadership opportunity, and economic engagement of people with a disability. It enabled 3 people with a communication disability to develop and present presentations about the risks and strategies of safer electronic gaming for people with disabilities and their supports and present across East Gippsland and Sale.
1 Gambling effects 2 in 100 of the Australian population and 7 in 100 of people with lifelong disability, and up to 25 in 100 of people with an acquired disability. (Gambler’s Help information brochure)
By Mel Newcomen Gippsland Regional Communication Service.