In the 2018-19 financial year, more than $150,000 was spent every day on pokie machines in Ballarat.
While venues are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, advocates against gambling harm are seizing the opportunity to promote alternatives.
Ballarat Community Health is spearheading a new project to unite community groups and encourage people who are struggling to get the help they need.
That daily figure is staggering, particularly in the current climate, project lead Kate Diamond-Keith said.
"Thinking about how that money could be better spent in Ballarat, and particularly if you put the COVID-19 lens on right now, we've got lots of small businesses and people struggling - think about that money and how it could be spent on local businesses now and after lockdown," she said.
Instead, people who might have otherwise have gone straight to pokie venues need an alternative, and with the support from community groups around them, this could lead to long-term healthy behaviour change.
The initiative, All-In, uses Ballarat locals in its social media campaign.
Activities like gardening or exercise are better ways to stay occupied than online gambling, Ms Diamond-Keith said.
"The catchcry is spend your time in new ways - take a break from gambling, do something else rather than turning to gambling," she said.
"Particularly at the moment when everyone's in their homes and it's hard to keep yourself busy, particularly if you're not working, and you're an older person who might have regularly gone to the pokies - instead of turning to online pokies, try and do something else."
The other important part of the project is the collaboration with community organisations, including the Salvation Army, Sports Central, and Cafs, as well as the City of Ballarat, to promote positive change.
"They're organisations that have stepped up, they've taken a real commitment to be part of this program and supporting the people they deal with," Ms Diamond-Keith said.
"They're providing information about health services to their employees, and looking at things for when we come out of lockdown things like not holding staff functions at pokies venues, or not allowing access to gambling sites from work laptops.
"They're having a think about footy tipping, or Melbourne Cup sweeps - not don't do it, but maybe think about not using money.
"It's about not normalising gambling - it starts out as a fun thing, then it becomes an addiction, and particularly if you're someone who is recovering from problem gambling and you have these things happening at your work, that's very hard."
There is still a stigma around problem gambling, which prevents people seeking help, she added.
"There's been a change in thinking around gambling harm, away from thinking that it's an individual responsibility," she said.
"There's been a shift away from that, from being an individual responsibility, to it being a whole-of-community-issue, and being a public health issue.
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"Everyone has a role to play in preventing gambling harm, and you don't have to be a gambler to contribute to that.
"We know it's a long-term approach, public health campaigns are long-term behaviour change projects, so instead of just doing stuff on our own, it's been more about getting other organisations on board because that's how you make it sustainable - it's not just us, Ballarat Community Health, it's about lots of people doing it, and that's how you make change."
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