While millions of Australians will have a punt on this year’s Melbourne Cup and other spring racing carnival events, it’s a time to remember the tens of thousands of Australians who live with their ongoing gambling addiction.

Jack de Groot, CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, said high profile events such as the Melbourne Cup can pose additional dangers for problem gamblers because these events normalise gambling.

“As we move into the spring racing carnival, it is hard to avoid media coverage and increased sports betting advertising. This celebration of gambling is accompanied by only the merest acknowledgement of potential dangers facing problem gamblers and their families,” Mr de Groot said.

“The overwhelming public messaging that gambling is harmless may cause problem gamblers to feel further stigmatised because of their addiction. This can make them even more vulnerable to developing or exacerbating a problem gambling habit."

“We encourage friends and family to use the Melbourne Cup and other spring carnival events as an opportunity to start a conversation with someone at risk of problem gambling.”

St. Vincent de Paul Society Gambling Help counsellor Michele Zavaglia said talking with a friend or loved one has been made easier with the new Talkward program providing free e-cards aimed at breaking the ice and initiating a conversation.

“The e-cards, which can be customised and personalised, use humour to focus on a thorny subject but carry a serious message: now we’ve got the awkward bit out of the way, let’s have a talk in real life,” said Ms Zavaglia.

A new booklet has also been published with practical advice for family and friends to manage themselves while helping loved ones.