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International Gambling Conference Kicks Off Today

Media release

Friday, May 27, 2005

For immediate release

International Gambling Conference Kicks Off Today

Stemming the tide of problem gambling in New Zealand and throughout the world will be the focus of the second International Gambling Conference: Policy, Practice and Research - One Year On.

The conference brings together some of the world’s pre-eminent researchers who will share their knowledge with government officials, policy makers, regulators, service providers and socially concerned gambling industry officials from around the world.

The conference, jointly hosted by AUT’s Gambling Research Centre and the Gambling Helpline, will be held today and tomorrow (27 and 28 May) at the Spencer on Byron Hotel in Takapuna.

AUT Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences Professor Max Abbott, who will give the keynote address today, says as gambling becomes one of the world’s growth industries, problem gambling is becoming one of the fastest growing pathologies.

“There has been unprecedented expansion in gambling availability, participation and expenditure around the world over the past 15 to 20 years.

“People gamble for many reasons and most do not experience long-lasting or significant negative consequences. The majority of people gamble because they enjoy it. However, the probability of developing a problem is quite high for those who participate in continuous forms of gambling weekly or more often,” he says.

Gambling Helpline Chief Executive Gary Clifford says gambling activity has increased significantly over the past 10 years with new methods of gambling, driven by mediums such as the internet.

“In line with this increase in gambling activity, has been a significant growth in the number of people seeking help.

“New Zealanders are now spending more than $2.04 billion a year on gambling. Of this, more than $1 billion is put through non-casino gaming machines,” he says.

The conference is being held in conjunction with the International Think Tank on Presenting Populations and First Contact Services, which was held yesterday.

The purpose of the associated Think Tank was to provide an international forum to discuss these issues in greater depth and foster co-operation between major stakeholders, encouraging them to undertake research and develop evidence-led policies and services.

The conference comes one year after the May 2004 International Gambling Conference – ‘Gambling and problem gambling in New Zealand: taking stock and moving forward on policy, practice and research. Professor Abbott says that the New Zealand context has changed significantly over the last year.

“New gambling legislation came into full effect in 2004 and this made it a critical year for gambling and problem gambling in New Zealand. This legislation is of interest internationally because it is the first instance of a comprehensive national public health approach to gambling and problem gambling.”

New Zealand was the first country to undertake a national prevalence survey of problem gambling using a validated tool (in 1991) and develop nationwide problem gambling services (from 1993).

In the year prior to the 2004 conference, just under 5,000 new callers contacted the Gambling Helpline and approximately 4,000 received specialist counseling or therapy from support services. During the preceding six years more than 32,000 New Zealanders accessed problem gambling assessment and/or treatment services.

“Given that the country’s population is just over four million and the adult problem gambling prevalence estimate is one to two percent, this is an exceptionally high level of outreach to people experiencing gambling problems,” says Professor Abbott.

During the conference there will be discussions relating to issues such as the impact of and decline or increase of electronic gaming machines, the status of services to assist and treat problem gamblers and family/whanau and the need for further research.

ENDS

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