Measures Being Taken by the New Zealand Government to Combat Problem Gambling

Piers Daubeney

Posted On:   AUG - 15 - 2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Advocates of gambling have spoken about the many benefits that the activity can provide not only to the individual but also the society. If practiced responsibly it can almost be considered a harmless activity that brings joy to individuals and also improves the economy of a country via taxation. While New Zealand is a progressive country and is home to some of the best online casinos in the world, there are many gamblers who have been consumed by the dark side of gambling. The rise of such individuals has prompted the government to take corrective measures to protect them.

Using the Ministry of Health to Combat Problem Gambling in New Zealand

The Ministry of Health is playing a pivotal role in helping problem gamblers by creating public policy frameworks. These include providing advice to gambling problems in other sectors including youth, education, social services and more. The government also uses MOH to investigate the correlation between gambling and alcohol / drugs and the detrimental impact that this may have on the society’s health. They conduct research to determine trends between alcohol consumption, drug taking and gambling and formulate policies to reduce the negative impact.

Reducing Gambler Exploitation by Creating Supportive Environments

New Zealand is home to quite several land-based casinos where people gather and indulge in gambling activities. One of the most important initiatives taken by the government is to create an environment that is supportive towards problem gamblers. This is done by creating and developing programs that raise awareness of gambling related issues. These programs also provide frameworks for the casinos on how to tackle problem gamblers and provides them advice on steps that the casinos can take to identify and help problem gamblers.

Helping the Communities Identify and Address the Dangers of Gambling

Problem gambling if not tackled in its infancy has the potential to wreak havoc to the entire community. The government realises the dangers associated with problem gambling and is consistently developing society readiness frameworks. These frameworks aim to train and educate the community so they can effectively deal with these issues. It also involves improving ties between agencies that assist in reducing gambling harm in gamblers. The government has already executed initiatives to strengthen ties with Maori communities and liaises with Asian and Pacific residents in developing health-based promotional programmes aimed to protect the gamblers.

Strengthening the Workforce Dealing with Problem Gambling

The New Zealand government works closely with the Maori community to identify the best ways to combat problem gambling. It has also extended support to social services ensuring they have the skills required to deal with such sensitive issues.

Investing in Research and Evaluation Programmes

Most importantly the government strives to stay up to date with the latest prevention tools and techniques. They evaluate the performance of their current programmes and how effective they are proving to be with combating problem gambling. This includes investigating their current surveillance, monitoring, database and information systems and assessing whether the need updating. The Ministry of Health has been transparent on its assessment of their current prevention systems and has even taken public consultation into consideration when it comes to dealing with problem gambling.

A refresh of this strategy occurs every three years and feedback from the consultation will form the basis of the content for the Ministry’s Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm 2019-20 to 2021-22. This is in accordance to the Gambling Act 2003 and the three year refresh aims to keep the country up to date with the changes that gambling brings to a society.

A Ministry of Health representative had the following to say to “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 Gambling Act 2003 requires the ministry to complete what is defined as gambling harm assessment for each strategy period. Data collected for strategy period 2019-20 to 2021-22 showed that there was next to no change in the percentage of the population affected by gambling harm. While there was an increase in problem gamblers, this was inline with the increase in population. The ministry also defined that individuals affected by gambling belonged to a certain sub set of society that is people with low incomes. It was also identified that the 50% of the electronic gaming machines which present the highest risk of harmful gambling harm are located in socio-economic deprived areas.

MOH had the following to say about these findings : “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.”


While these issues pose a serious threat to society, the MOH is upbeat due to the attitude shown by the industry towards problem gambling: “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.”