ACT News

New gambling helpline provider for Canberrans

Relationships Australia will take over responsibility for delivering the ACT's problem gambling assistance phoneline after a competitive government tender process for the three-year contract. 

Racing and Gaming Minister Joy Burch announced the new management arrangements on Friday and defended the performance of former provider Mission Australia in the service's first three years.

The ACT Gambling and Support Service provides specialised professional counselling to support individuals and families.
The ACT Gambling and Support Service provides specialised professional counselling to support individuals and families. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Under the new arrangements, Relationships Australia Canberra and Region will partner with Care Financial Counselling Service to assist people with problem gambling and provide financial planning and guidance.

"I think it is important for those who have problems with gambling to know that we stand with them," Ms Burch said.

The ACT Gambling and Support Service provides specialised professional counselling to support individuals and families who are experiencing problems with gambling through a 24-hour confidential advice line as well as personal and online counselling services.

The service is funded by contributions from all gaming machine owners, the ACTTAB betting agency and Casino Canberra. The contributions are also used to assist research, self-help and education programs.

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Some members of the gaming and hospitality industry had been critical of the service under the former contract, including at times when, they said, some phone calls went unanswered. 

Ms Burch said the new arrangements included strict performance reporting requirements which would be monitored by government. 

"It was a new service," she said. "This is something that we ... committed to a number of years ago and as the service developed we have become more aware of where the focus needs to be.

"The 24-hour access was important, phone and online counselling was certainly important as some people don't want to come in in the first instance for a face-to-face session. Having the link with Care Financial was quite significant because those with gambling problems may have financial concerns and we want to deal with that in one whole session."

Relationships Australia is a not-for-profit community organisation which provides family dispute resolution, counselling, problem gambling assistance and relationship counselling. 

Chief executive officer Mary Perkin welcomed the new partnership on Friday and said it would help strengthen the community and the work of her organisation's 80 staff in the ACT and NSW.  

Care Financial Counselling Service director Carmel Franklin said the partnership would benefit Canberrans who need assistance with managing their income. 

"Relationships Australia will provide the counselling for people who want to work on the issues they have with gambling and we will be looking at people's financial situation, helping make arrangements with creditors, stabilise their situation and protect assets. 

"We have been working in this space for a while but we haven't had a formal partnership with Relationships Australia and that's really exciting because it means we can provide holistic support," she said. 

The 24-hour ACT Gambling Counselling and Support Service number is 1800 858 858