Problem gambling is becoming a major issue in New Zealand, and the local government wants to do something about it. Recently, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has launched a consultation on its future strategy to prevent problem gambling rates from rising and minimize gambling harm.
Feedback from this consultation will shape the direction of the MoH’s Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm for the next three years. It will include draft proposals for the plan which will set out priorities that the government should consider when tackling the problem.
One of the major issues is the high rate of gambling harm among at-risk groups, like Maori, Pacific people and those who have low incomes. The consultation has so far found that these groups are less likely to seek out help – but also that over 50% of gambling machines are located in areas with the highest socio-economic deprivation, which are also those with the highest populations of Maori and Pacific people. These are very important concerns that the government will need to address.
Sky City Getting a Head Start
While the government is currently considering the best way to help those affected by gambling addiction, SkyCity Casino in Auckland is already acting on its plans to help problem gamblers. It is the largest casino in the country, and public health organization Hāpai Te Hauora has recognised that SkyCity should be the place to start.
Over the course of the next week, seven problem gambling support providers will be at the casino to offer assistance to any one who needs it. They will take bookings from any customer of the casino who feels that they are developing unhealthy habits.
Problem gambling is considered a taboo, and many people who are affected are reluctant to come forward. With this new initiative, those who are worried about their gambling habits will be able to speak openly with someone who can help without going too far out of their way or having to go out and “seek help” from a professional.
Hāpai Te Hauora has called the event a “foot in the door”, which will give problem gambling organizations better access to problem gamblers. It is hoped that this is part of an ongoing trend that will allow problem gamblers to obtain the help they need from directly within the gaming venue they frequent.
SkyCity should certainly be applauded for its boldness in taking up this cause in such a public way. We hope that it will inspire other gaming operators across New Zealand and around the world to do the same.