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Only One In Ten Problem Gamblers Are Seeking Help

24 January 2006

Only One In Ten Problem Gamblers Are Seeking Help

Figures released today by the Gambling Helpline show that new client calls fell by 33 percent last year - despite 1.3 percent of New Zealanders experiencing gambling problems.

At first glance the decline could be viewed as a positive development if it indicates a reduction in gambling harm, but Gambling Helpline chief executive, Krista Ferguson, says the overall statistics must be kept in perspective.

"Although it might be tempting to think that this result reflects a drop in problem gambling, it is important to remember the Gambling Helpline and other services reach only 10 percent of those affected.

"Even though we receive over 200 new callers every month, 90 percent of an estimated 50,000 problem gamblers are not contacting the Helpline or other services for help. Each one of those people could potentially be affecting up to seven significant others," she added.

Significant others comprised 28 percent of new callers to the Helpline in 2005 and refers to spouses, family members, friends or anyone concerned about someone who is gambling.

Ms Ferguson says that anecdotally, the drop in people seeking help for the first time for gambling problems is being linked to the December 2004 smoking law changes. The smoking ban requires gamblers to go outside for a cigarette, which breaks the gambling process by reducing the amount of time the gambler spends in front of the machine. Although legislation has introduced tougher measures on gambling venues it's difficult to say whether these are having an impact.

The Gambling Helpline's 2005 year-end statistics reflect similar trends to those found in 2004. Electronic gaming machines, also known as pokies, continue to remain the single biggest issue for problem gamblers with 87 percent of the Helpline's callers reporting gaming machines in pubs, clubs and casinos as their primary mode of gambling. However, track betting and gambling at casino tables increased over the 2005 year to 5.3 percent and 4.5 percent respectively.

The proportion of NZ Europeans/Pakehas continue to represent less than 60 percent of callers, a drop first seen in 2004, while Maori and Pacific Island callers remained steady and Asian ethnic groups saw a slight increase.

The 50/50 ratio of female to male gamblers remained the same in 2005. Female callers continued to form a large proportion of significant others who call the Gambling Helping, at 77 percent. The results also showed a marked increase in the proportion of people over the age of 55 who are calling the Gambling Helpline concerned about the gambling problem of a significant other.

Ms Ferguson says that a success story for 2005 has been the 90 percent increase in visitors looking for self-help via the Gambling Helpline website. Launched in 1998, the website now receives over 100 visitors a day and 200 new postings on their Talking Point message board each month. In 2006, the website is to undergo further development and will become more interactive with enhanced self-help applications.

"The increase in hits to the website demonstrates that the new self-help assessment tool launched last year, together with the Talking Point, appeal to people because it gives them another choice and enables them to take a first step in an anonymous way," she says.

The Gambling Helpline has worked with over 27,000 New Zealanders in its seven-year history and continues to provide ongoing support to 600 people a month in addition to the 200 new callers.

If you are worried about your own gambling or that of someone close to you call the Gambling Helpline on 0800 654 655, or visit


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