Former rugby league footballer and problem gambler Nathan Hindmarsh lent his weight to Clubs ACT's campaign to get on the front foot on problem gambling in Canberra, urging people to seek help when they need it.
Hindmarsh lost $200,000 on the pokies in NSW over about seven years before he finally asked for help, and he is now paid by Clubs NSW to spread the word about problem gambling, speaking regularly with school groups and others.
He says when he speaks to groups, teens as young as year 10 admit to gambling online.
On Tuesday, he was in Canberra, launching Clubs ACT's new branding for gambling contact officers in clubs.
Hindmarsh said he doesn't blame clubs or the gambling industry for his problem, and doesn't advocate for bans, instead spreading the message of gambling responsibly.
"The majority of people can gamble quite safely and quite socially. It's a small minority of people that have an issue," he said.
"I don't blame anyone for what I did, I don't blame the industry, I don't blame clubs. It was my decision as an adult to play the poker machines."
Hindmarsh has four boys of his own, and says he is bringing them up to "be careful".
He began playing the pokies in the smallest of ways in 1998, when he went to the Paramatta Leagues Club for a meal and decided to put a few coins through a poker machine.
"I had a win and it went from there," he said, unsure what turned that moment into a problem that saw him lose as much as $3000 in a day - and at one point blowing a $10,000 win in just three days.
"I escaped when I sat down at them. I can't put a finger on exactly what it was," he says, with people ensnared for different reasons - the colours, sounds, thrill, escapism.
Clubs that belong to Clubs ACT will use badges to identify gambling contact officers, and will distribute pamphlets and coasters.
Hindmarsh says it will make a big difference, with officers more visible to patrons. No one intervened when he was gambling - he believes no-one knew other than his partner, who is now his wife - and Hindmarsh says he took a gambling helpline card home with him every night, but never had the courage to call. But if someone had intervened at some moments, he would have opened up.
"Its tricky one," he says. "Some days when I was on the machines if someone approached me I would have broken down and cried and said thanks very much for talking to me. Other times I would have said piss off and mind your own business."
Greens gambling spokesman Shane Rattenbury congratulated Clubs ACT on the move, saying it was good to see the group "finally contributing" to the harm minimisation debate.
"They say the first step is admitting you have a problem - and that's what we've seen from Clubs ACT today," he said.