24 January 2023

Clubs ask Riverina punters if they are 'OK2PLAY?'

| Chris Roe
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Man with gaming app

Wagga Rules Club gaming manager Brandon Pomeroy with the new app. Photo: Supplied.

Riverina clubs are getting on the front foot in the debate over problem gambling and mental health, with several venues rolling out the new OK2PLAY? app.

The technology prompts patrons via a text message or at membership kiosks to confirm whether they are ”OK to play”.

If the answer is ”no”, staff can discreetly respond and link the person to essential ongoing support services.

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Wagga Rules Club was one of three venues in the Riverina that introduced the digital technology platform in October, along with Albury SS&A and Corowa Club.

Rules club gaming manager Brandon Pomeroy said the initiative was a positive way to support members’ wellbeing in a variety of ways.

“We wanted a more proactive way to support patrons who may be looking for help with not only gaming, but other areas of mental health,” he said.

“OK2PLAY? is important for us as we want to take a proactive approach and make the conversation around mental health and wellbeing easier to initiate.

“We want to demonstrate to our membership that we are available at any time.”

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The rollout of the app comes amid the ongoing tug of war between pubs and clubs in New South Wales and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who is leading the push for gambling reform and the rollout of cashless gaming cards.

Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr has also been a vocal advocate for change, describing problem gambling as a health issue.

He is cautiously supportive of the OK2PLAY? initiative, saying that any step forward is positive.

“There’s a lot we’ve got to do in this space and it’s a good step as it recognises that there’s a problem, but it can’t get in the way of effective action,” he said.

“So far, the attempts that have been put in place by the industry haven’t been that effective and I don’t think this will go far enough on its own.”

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A spokesperson for app developer GPT said the aim was to “normalise the conversation and remove the stigma of asking for help, no matter what the situation is, and having a human-to-human contact to support people.”

The new technology has been rolled out at 50 venues in NSW and Qld, and so far more than 145,000 people have received the targeted messaging.

Of those, a total of 537 people answered ”no” and requested contact from the venue.

gaming app text message

Punters are asked to respond to texts and on-screen messages from OK2PLAY?. Photo: Supplied.

Across the three venues in the Riverina, a total of about 20,000 people have been asked whether they are OK and 69 people have so far asked for help with issues including mental health, stress, gambling and other personal matters.

“The anonymity at the beginning of the process will make it easier for those who respond ‘no’ to reach out, it’s far less intimidating than calling a hotline or approaching a staff member directly,” Mr Pomeroy explained.

“Our staff have also felt very positive as OK2PLAY? provides a clear procedure and toolset to assist patrons in a more effective manner.”

The OK2PLAY? technology will continue to be rolled out across NSW and Queensland in the months.

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