Gambling Harm Awareness Week is in full swing in New Zealand and Kiwis have been pressed to examine their gambling habits against the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions.
Andree Froude, the Director of Communications at the Problem Gambling Foundation, explained that the stressful times people are going through are likely to trigger the urge to gamble in some.
“This is a good time to check-in if you’re unsure if your gambling has become harmful to yourself or your family, so taking a quick, online anonymous test, will tell you more about your gambling. At the end of the test, you get a personalised report and the option of sharing your results and talking it over with a qualified gambling counsellor,” she said.
Froude explained that during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, many Kiwis had no choice but to take a break from gambling, but when venues were allowed to reopen, an unparalleled amount was spent on pokies in pubs, clubs and TABs.
Gamblers in New Zealand lost $252 million in the last quarter of 2020. At the time, this represented the highest amount ever since record-taking commenced in 2007 and this record was already broken by the April to June quarter of 2021. Department of Internal Affairs data reveals that Kiwis lost over $260 million on pokies across the country between April and June in 2021.
Froude added that the scale of post-lockdown pokie losses repudiates the Gaming Machine Association’s claims that community projects would find themselves starved of pokie funds should venues be forced to closed again.
“Surely the significant losses over 2020 and 2021 are being shared as grants now. These lockdowns are, however, a reminder that we need a transparent and sustainable form of funding for our community and sports groups rather than one that relies on vast amounts of gambling losses from poor communities and whānau where it causes so much harm. Fifty percent of pokie machines are in New Zealand’s poorest communities,” she said.
Pokies located in pubs, clubs and TABs, or Class 4 gambling, have been identified as the most harmful form of gambling in New Zealand, making up almost half of all submissions to gambling support services.
Kiwis have been encouraged over Gambling Harm Awareness Week to approach the available free, professional and confidential assistance and counselling if they or anyone they know is experiencing problems with gambling. The nationally available services can be accessed via phone, video conferencing, text, email, and live chat options.