Now gambling help just a card away - Thursday 1st of May 2008

Invercargill pubs are leading the country with a new way of assisting problem gamblers.

Nearly 200 pokie machines in the city now have help cards attached and its hoped the idea will catch on nationwide.

The help cards are just an arms length away, outlining symptoms and suggesting where to go.

Eru Loach, of the Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Trust, which helps problem gamblers with their addiction, says problem gambling is a very quiet demon in a lot of peoples lives.

"Now its easier for them to grab a business sized help card and pop it in their pocket for another day," says Loach.

Its a joint initiative from Southlands Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Trust and the Invercargill Licensing Trust Foundation.

Alan Denis, the Invercargill Licensing Trust Foundation chairman, says he would like to see this initiative taken up by other pubs across the country.

"In other words it makes those who can help problem gamblers more accessible and I think thats a jolly good start," says Denis.

Doreen Whakamoe is one of those trying to stay away from the pokies.

She admits lying and stealing from family to support a 10 year addiction.

"To me, this was a place where I could get away from all my troubles," says Whakamoe.

New Zealand gamblers lose close to two billion dollars a year and for around 50,000 problem addicts, honesty and respect can go too.

"People werent trusting me, my friends werent trusting me, my family werent trusting me. They werent talking to me," says Whakamoa.

Pokies were Whakamoas biggest problem and its the same nationwide for those with an addiction.

The "How to seek help" pamphlets are mostly ignored and its beneficiaries and low waged who are among the most vulnerable.

Now well on target to overcoming her gambling problem, Whakamoa just wishes help had been on the cards much earlier.

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