Gambler's help services have expressed their concern leading up to the re-opening of poker machine venues in Victoria in July.
Anecdotal reports show the closure of gambling and pokies venues since late March has dramatically reduced gambling harm.
TAB facilities re-opened on June 22 in Victoria with an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Electronic gaming areas at pubs, clubs and the casino are set to be reopened with distancing, cleaning and hygiene requirements on July 20, according to current Victorian government advice.
Child and Family Services Ballarat offers a financial counselling and gambler's help service.
There has been a lot of people who have returned to gamble just as they did before.Wendy Sturgess, Child and Family Services Ballarat
Chief executive Wendy Sturgess said anecdotal evidence showed many people had been able to break their gambling habits while access to gambling venues was cut off.
"We certainly know anecdotally from people who have called us for help, they have said (lockdown) has been beneficial for them to be able to break the habit, to be able to change their ways and have that temptation removed," Ms Sturgess said.
"There are some people who have said that has been a sense of relief for them during this time."
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Ms Sturgess said she was concerned there would be a surge in gambling at poker machine venues when they re-open in July.
"We have certainly looked at what has happened in New South Wales where gambling venues have reopened," she said.
"There has been a lot of people who have returned to gamble just as they did before.
"We are concerned about those people who have a gambling habit, who with the re-emergence of gambling venues may not be able to regulate themselves.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform analysed poker machine losses in New South Wales in the first week of operation after lockdown and found they were taking more money than pre-COVID, even with 40 per cent of machines turned off.
The alliance also expressed concern the return of AFL and its associated gambling advertising could lead to increased gambling harm.
Ms Sturgess said CAFS encouraged people to seek help.
"There is the underlying issue that sometimes people look to gambling as a way to get money because they think it will be an easy way to get some sort of windfall," she said.
"People at this time are already under financial stress, so we really worry about those people for their finances, but also for their health and well-being, for their relationships and their families.
"That is why we would encourage them to reach out for help, because we are here to help."
Pre-coronavirus data shows on average $152,778 is spent on the pokies per day in the City of Ballarat.
If you or someone you know needs gambling support, contact Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858.
Child and Family Services Ballarat financial counselling team can provide help. To access the free service, call 5337 3333 or email email@example.com.
Mental health support is also available through Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.
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