Gambling Harm Awareness Week Underway in New Zealand

Gambling Harm Awareness Week Underway in New Zealand

Gambling Harm Awareness Week (GHAW) kicked-off in New Zealand on Monday, and runs from September 3-9, during which time awareness will be raised about the possible damage compulsive gambling can inflict upon its victims. The initiative was launched by the Problem Gambling Foundation, which has expressed concern that gambling rates remain high in the country of 4.7 million, despite overall gambling participation rates continuing to decline.

This year, GHAW’s theme revolves around the family, and has the tagline “Take time out from gambling, put time into whanau.” The latter is a Maori word that has entered New Zealand English over the past few years, and refers to a person’s “extended family or community.”

National Gambling Study

Last month, the Auckland University of Technology released the findings of its Ministry of Health funded National Gambling Study (NGS) report. On the positive side, gambling participation rates have fallen from 80% in 2012 to 75% in 2015. Unfortunately, the percentage of problem gamblers and those at-risk from gambling has remained constant at around 2% of the population. Furthermore, research has shown that the poorest communities around the country are those most at risk from gambling-related harm.

In fact, they spend on average a staggering NZ$56,500 (US$37,100) each year on gambling, an amount that belies their impoverished status, with Pacific (7.6%) and Maori populations (6.3%) having the highest rates of problem gambling. Commenting upon the untenable situation, Siobhan Kemp of Salvation Army Gambling Harm Service, explains:

“With the lower its people stealing to gamble, stealing from their family to gamble, borrowing money with the intention always to pay it back. But often when people get stuck down the rabbit hole of gambling, you lose everything.”

Highlighting further the damage done to the country’s indigenous people, Max Abbott, one of the National Gambling Study’s researchers, said that the harm done to them is “magnified many-fold” in terms of health and economic inequalities. He also added that while Pacific communities have strong religious ties to Christianity, the Church has unfortunately helped normalize gambling by regularly organizing bingo and other gambling activities in order to raise funds.

Pause the Pokies

According to Professor Max Abbott, electronic gaming machines known locally as pokies, have been instrumental in spreading gambling addictions throughout New Zealand. Abbott has further stated that local pubs and clubs have failed to demonstrate the duty of care required of them under law, and so has called for their reduction in numbers and eventual removal from such venues.

According to the latest information, there are 1,140 businesses in New Zealand currently hosting around 15,000 gaming machines. As part of Gambling Harm Awareness Week, an inaugural initiative was launched on Monday called ‘Pause the Pokies’ in which pokie machines were switched off for an hour by willing participants. A total of 70 venues eventually agreed to support the initiative, and as Andree Froude, the Communications Director of the Problem Gambling Foundation, explains:

“We are hoping that pausing the pokies will also allow gamblers to think about their gambling, and it may lead to people seeking help from a local service if they are experiencing harm or know someone that is.”

SkyCity Casino Offers Help

SkyCity Auckland located in the center of New Zealand’s most populated city (418,000) is the country’s largest casino. In an attempt to do its bit for GHAW, the casino has set up several information stalls inside the venue, whose representatives will provide gambling help services to those in need of support from September 3-7. This is intended to establish an appropriate pathways between gamblers and their service provider, whilst engaging as many people as possible over the course of the initiative.

“We see ourselves as having a real responsibility in ensuring that those people who do come to our properties enjoy their time and see gambling as a form of entertainment and have fun with it,” explains SkyCity Casino Support Services General Manager, Callum Mallet.

Casino company SkyCity Entertainment recently released its results for the latest financial year revealing $996.8 million in revenue, $584.7 million of which was generated by its Auckland operation. This resulted in a record net profit of $169.5 million for the year, which according to the firm was a result of continued growth in its Auckland and Adelaide casinos, as well as effective cost management.