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New callers connect with Gambling Helpline

8 March 2005

New callers connect with Gambling Helpline following documentary

Gambling Helpline counsellors were busy last night (7 March) with callers who wanted to talk about their gambling problems, following the screening of the documentary “It’s Not a Game” on TV ONE. Ninety percent of callers were phoning for the first time, compared with the normal level of around one in four.

Gary Clifford, Gambling Helpline Chief Executive, says the calls were for help and intervention, triggered by the primetime documentary on the realities of pokie addiction in New Zealand.

Produced by TopShelf Productions, the documentary revealed the real-life stories of some New Zealanders whose lives have been negatively affected through gambling on pokie machines. Pokies are the single biggest issue for problem gamblers, with more than 90% of the callers to the Gambling Helpline last year reporting gaming machines in pubs, clubs and casinos as their primary mode of gambling.

Mr Clifford said the calls to the Helpline are an understandable public response when gambling or problem gambling issues receive prime-time media coverage.

“We anticipated an increase in calls following the documentary so we extended our services until midnight and all available phone lines were operating. Additional counsellors were also working this morning to undertake follow-up calls and to facilitate referrals to face-to-face agencies,” says Mr Clifford.

“Most of last night’s calls were for help and intervention from new callers who wanted to talk about their own gambling problems. The balance of calls was from people the Helpline has been supporting for some time already or from people concerned about someone else’s gambling problem. Almost certainly some of these will be followed by the gambler making contact with us.

“Given the personal nature and stories within the documentary it was no surprise that we received calls from people who recognised their own stories on screen. Our counsellors are trained and experienced in dealing with people seeking help for the first time often about something that they have not felt able to share with anyone else until they contact us,” says Mr Clifford.

Last year the Gambling Helpline commissioned the production of a DVD/video resource that includes some contributions from the people who participated in the documentary “It’s Not a Game”. The resource is divided into two parts – the first is called ‘The Gambler’ and contains firsthand accounts of gambling problems. The second is called ‘Gambling – the Flipside’ and shares the perspectives of affected partners and families.

Also produced by Topshelf Productions, the DVD/video uses real stories to illustrate key health messages, helping to raise awareness and understanding about gambling and gambling problems.

In November 2004 the Gambling Helpline provided a set of DVD and videos to all Ministry of Health-funded gambling service providers nationally. These lend themselves to viewing and discussion with community groups.

“Problem gambling is widespread in New Zealand yet it remains a deeply private issue for most of those affected, by their own or someone else’s problem gambling. We hope this resource brings this private issue to a public space, facilitating a better understanding of this complex health problem in the community as well as enabling counsellors to show clients how they are not alone in experiencing these problems,” says Mr Clifford.

The Gambling Helpline plans to publish a number of ‘thumbnails,’ short sound and video elements, of the same DVD material on its website before June to broaden public access to these key health messages (


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