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New Zealand government sets out plans to tackle problem gambling

| By iGB Editorial Team
Public consultation taking place over future strategy

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health (MoH) has said it is assessing the use of technology to address the issue of problem gambling in the country, amid a public consultation for its future strategy to prevent and minimise gambling harm.

The MoH launched the consultation last month. It undertakes a refresh of the strategy every three years and the consultation process will run through to September 21.

Feedback received will act to shape the future direction and content of the Ministry’s Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm 2019-20 to 2021-22.

Included are draft proposals for the strategic plan, which sets out the general strategic direction and priorities for the government to address the issue. This framework comprises the proposed funding levels for the Ministry, in relation to the gambling harm prevention and minimisation activities described in the strategy.

It also spells out the proposed service plan for the three years from 2019-20 to 2021-22, along with the proposed problem gambling levy rates and weighting options per gambling sector.

The NZ Government enacted the Gambling Act 2003 with statutory requirements to develop an integrated strategy to prevent and minimise gambling harm and that it be reviewed every three years. The MoH acknowledged that the latest review is important in addressing the rapidly evolving gambling and gaming market.

A MoH spokesman told iGamingBusiness.com: “This three yearly review recognises that changes can occur quickly in the gambling environment and allows the strategy to adapt and respond to changes.

“The draft Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm for 2019-20 to 2021-22 discusses a number of factors that the Ministry considered when developing the proposed service plan for this period. Some of these factors address the rapidly evolving and developing gambling environment, for example, the possible growth in online gambling and the convergence between gambling and gaming.”

The Act requires the Ministry to complete a gambling harm needs assessment to inform the strategy development for each strategy period. For the development of the draft strategy for 2019-20 to 2021-22 the needs assessment showed that while there has been little change in the percentage of the population affected by gambling harm, the total number of people affected has increased in line with population growth.

The MoH also said that significant inequities attributable to gambling harm persist for vulnerable at risk groups, such as Mâori, Pacific people and those on low incomes. While the Ministry said service uptake has been well below expected demand, it added that about 50% of electronic gaming machines, which research shows present the highest risk of harmful gambling harm, are located in the areas with the highest socio-economic deprivation. These areas also tend to have high Mâori and Pacific populations, with these communities experiencing the highest rates of gambling harm.

Concerning the main problem areas regarding gambling in New Zealand at present, the MoH added: “The main area of harm comes from non-casino gaming machines (NCGM) or pokies, commonly seen in clubs and pubs, which contribute the highest share of both people seeking help (53%) and sector expenditure (38%).

“We have also seen a steady increase in lotteries presentations and spending, which now rivals casino expenditure. The emerging areas of concern are internet-based gambling and the convergence between gambling and gaming, both of which are currently unregulated.”

Despite these issues, the MoH said it is “heartened” with the attitude shown by the industry towards problem gambling.

It added: “While there is always room for improvement when it comes to reducing gambling harm, the Ministry is heartened by the increasing commitment from the gambling industry to instituting a ‘culture of care’.

“The Ministry is looking at options to support this, for example using technology to assist where people experiencing gambling harm wish to exclude themselves from venues.”

Consumers in New Zealand spent NZ$2.33bn (£1.21bn/€1.35bn/US$1.56bn) on gaming and gambling in the 2016-17 financial year, up 5.7% on the previous 12 months.

Figures released by New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs in February showed punters spent NZ$125m more than the previous year.

Image: Jamie Adams

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