A Cessnock-based gambling help service has developed a self-help tool that can be used at home after seeing a shift towards online gambling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Samaritans Gambling Help counsellor Graeme Penney said while poker machines were inaccessible due to venue closures during the initial months of lockdown, some locals turned to online poker games and sports betting apps.
"Some people have moved to online gambling and others have increased their online gambling during the pandemic," Mr Penney said.
"While certain people can gamble without problems arising, others will find that they are spending more time and money on gambling, and less time with their family and friends.
"If you are starting to feel that gambling is causing harm, then perhaps it's time to check in with a counsellor and discuss your gambling."
Common warning signs include gambling longer or spending more money than planned, feeling guilty about gambling, having to conceal or lie about gambling, or finding yourself gambling when you had not intended to.
Samaritans has developed a self-help tool (a portable flip-book) for people who can't get to a counsellor or are struggling at home.
"The tool uses exercises and techniques that are used during a regular counselling session. It offers hints and strategies to help you regain control and stop gambling," Mr Penney said.
Samaritans Gambling Help offers free telephone and face-to-face counselling for those who are affected by gambling.
"People are becoming more comfortable with telephone counselling, and we still offer face-to-face counselling," Mr Penney said.
"The good news is most people who seek counselling do achieve their gambling control goals."
The self-help tool is free and can be collected from Samaritans Information and Neighborhood Centre at 124 Vincent Street, Cessnock.
Gambling Help is a free, confidential service. It can be reached on 0409 038 248.