This week is the first ever Gambling Harm Awareness Week.
It’s a bit of a big deal because until now there’s only been one day to recognise the harm that gambling can cause in the community. Since its inception in 2004 Gamble-Free Day has been marked by a variety of activities as part of a public health approach to minimising gambling harm. Those activities have included the crazy ‘dropping-pokie-machines-from-a-helicopter’ stunt to street theatre outside Auckland’s SkyCity Casino and other, more sedate celebrations of community as is happening through-out this week, as mechanisms for raising awareness of the potential harm caused by problem gambling.
According to gambling harm support organisations around 250,000 are adversely affected by gambling every year and children make up a large proportion of that number.
Pokies are by far the most dangerous forms of gambling (www.pgf.nz) however research and experience from Australia shows that sports betting is becoming increasingly problematic with the betting agencies framing betting on sports games as proof of support for fans’ teams.
I’m aware that we are starting to see the same development here in New Zealand with betting odds starting to appear as part of the commentary in major sports games.
We have recently update our gambling policy to reflect the changes that may be looming. We maintain a public health approach to preventing gambling harm and we want to wean community organisations off the money that is doled out by pokie trusts as part of the sanitation of what is essentially money garnered from addiction. The entire reason for pokies in pubs and clubs – known as Class 4 gambling – is to raise money for charities but around 40% of funds generated from pokie machines derives from those with the least control over their gambling behaviour.(www.pgf.nz).
Our updated policy also includes cracking down on advertising of gambling products and ensuring communities have a bigger say in gambling facilities in their neighbourhoods. These measures do seem to be working for pokies in pubs and clubs as gambling is slowly slowing over time.
The gambling business can be pretty darn dirty and powerful – the convention-centre-for-pokies deal the Government did with SkyCity Casino in Auckland is the classic example. But similarly here have been regular inroads by the Government on the protections for Class 4 gambling, the most recent one being a change in the law top enable venue operators to be paid by commission – which creates a disincentive for venue operators to exercise their required host responsibility in this area.
The Greens will continue to advocate for the health and well-being for our communities and totally support Gambling Harm Awareness Week.