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Poorer People Hardest Hit By Problem Gambling

Media Release

August 1 2006

Poorer People Still Hardest Hit By Problem Gambling


The vast majority of problem gamblers have yet to seek help that is freely available to them, says the Ministry of Health.

Just 12 per cent of people classed as problem gamblers have accessed Ministry of Health funded services such as the Gambling Helpline and other specialist problem gambling services, Ministry of Health gambling project team leader Shayne Nahu said.

"This leaves a huge group in society who have a gambling problem but either have not yet acknowledged it or don't know what to do about it. Many of these come from poorer communities. We have to work harder to reach and help these people."

Mr Nahu said two reports due for release shortly show poorer communities, including Maori and Pacific people, are still hardest hit by problem gambling.

The 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey shows almost two thirds of problem gamblers live in 40 per cent of New Zealand's most socio-economically deprived areas.

The Problem Gambling Geography report shows around half of non casino gaming machines (NCGM) and TABs are located in the 30 per cent most socio- economically deprived parts of New Zealand.

The 2005 Problem Gambling Geography report and the problem gambling results for the 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey are due for release early August.

A recent positive was a drop in the number of people using problem gambling services, but the reason for this was not clear-cut, Mr Nahu said.

Service user statistics for 2005 show a 15.8 per cent drop in people using Ministry of Health funded specialist problem gambling services and a 20.9 per cent decrease in the number of new clients.

Smokefree venues, regulatory measures to prevent and minimise gambling harm, and increasing public awareness of gambling issues could be behind this drop, Mr Nahu said.

The Ministry of Health has responsibility under the Gambling Act 2003 for a public health programme to prevent and minimise gambling harm. The ministry also funds a range of treatment services to support people and communities affected by gambling.

Key findings:
2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey

- 1.2 per cent of the population estimated to be problem gamblers

- Maori and Pacific people disproportionately affected

- Almost two thirds of problem gamblers live in New Zealand's 40 per cent most socio-economically deprived areas

- Significant risk factors include being between 25-34, Maori or Pacific ethnicity, lower educational attainment, being employed and living alone

- Problem gambling is strongly associated with risky drinking behaviour and smoking

- Problem gamblers were more likely to see themselves as having poor health

Problem Gambling Geography report 2005

- Gambling opportunities are widespread through New Zealand

- There has been a 13.4 per cent drop in the number of non-casino gaming machines - 25,221 2003 (June 2003) to 21,846 2005 (June 2005) but their distribution remains relatively unchanged from 2003.

- Around half of NCGMs and TABs are located in the 30 per cent most socio-economically deprived areas of New Zealand

- Problem gambling service coverage has increased from 2003

These reports were prepared by Public Health Intelligence, the epidemiology group of the Ministry of Health.

ENDS

For more information on the service user statistics and the reports Problem Gambling Geography of New Zealand 2005 and Problem Gambling in New Zealand; Analysis of the 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey call Fiona Mayo 027 544 3759


Question and Answer Fact Sheet

Do we know why only around 12 per cent of problem gamblers seek help?
Twelve per cent is in line with other developed countries. The reason for this isn't really known however this is why the Ministry has commissioned research through the Auckland University of Technology and Auckland University which looks at problem gambling prevalence, cause and effect. Research will also explore barriers to treatment. We hope to release the results of this research by the end of the year.

Does a drop in people seeking help with MoH funded problem gambling services necessarily mean a drop in problem gambling behaviours overall?
No, this figure does not mean prevalence statistics are declining and it must be remembered only 12 per cent of problem gamblers seek help. People seeking help with their gambling are often in a crisis situation and there may be people who while exhibit problem behaviour have yet to get to crisis stage. Research should give us more insight into this.

What are some of the other reasons for this drop in people using MoH funded problem gambling services?
It is possible that a general decrease in people using treatment services is linked to a general decrease in the number of venues and gaming machines (which would point to a decrease in the number of people with a gambling problem).

However, the number of venues with the maximum number of machines onsite has increased. Approximately 44% of non-casino gaming machine venues have the maximum of 18 machines and, along with TABs, are far more likely to be found in more deprived areas.

And while overall numbers of both gaming machines and venues have decreased over the last few years, there hasn't been a corresponding immediate decline in gaming spend. The amount players spent on gaming machines only dropped for the first time for the 2004/05 financial year. Again it's too early to predict a trend.

What is being done to encourage more people to seek help for problem gambling behaviours?
Two Ministry-funded screening projects are underway to train GPs and social service workers (eg budget advisors and WINZ staff) to identify people who may have a gambling-related problem or who may be at risk of gambling-related harm. The number of people being referred to problem gambling services is expected to increase as a result.

It is also anticipated that there will be a short-term to medium term increase in people seeking help when the mass communications component of the social marketing campaign commences in 2007/08. In the long-term, as public health and education initiatives take affect, there should be a decline in the numbers of people experiencing harm and people seeking help.

What is the relationship between problem gambling and socioeconomic deprivation?
Recent Ministry of Health data shows almost two thirds of problem gamblers live in more socio-economically deprived areas. These are areas where the population is less likely to have access to a car or telephone, unlikely to have high home ownership levels, higher than average unemployment and higher levels of income support.

In New Zealand, as in other countries, problem gambling has a disproportionate effect on people who are more socio-economically deprived, ie, they are at increased risk of becoming problem gamblers, and the impacts if they develop problems are more severe.

The reasons for this relationship are complicated. Problem gambling is linked however to prevalence of opportunities to gamble and non casino gambling machines are over represented in socio-economically deprived areas.

What is the effect of Smokefree legislation on problem gambling?
It's too early to tell. Non-casino gaming machine expenditure continued increasing until December 2004 when the legislation became operative.

Internationally, evidence suggests that following the introduction of a smoking ban, non-casino gaming machine expenditure returns to baseline levels within three to four years and SKYCITY recently expressed confidence that any effects on expenditure will quickly become minimal.

However smokefree legislation may have inadvertently forced breaks to play, which can prevent or delay the onset of problem gambling and reduce existing problems. Interestingly, the biggest decrease in new clients has been in the number of people seeking help as a result of problems with gaming machines. There is also a relationship between continuous forms of gambling and gambling harm.

What are service user statistics?
Service user statistics - the number of people seeking help from specialist problem gambling services funded by the Ministry - have been and continue to be an important component of gambling monitoring in New Zealand. They provide some insight into the "sharp end" of gambling-related harm, the mode of gambling associated with it, and the help-seeking behaviour of problem gamblers and their significant others.

Prevalence data and barriers to help-seeking
We don't know if the number of people with gambling problems (ie, the prevalence rate) has changed. Recent studies indicate that the prevalence rate for problem gambling is steady. It is generally accepted that only around 12 % of problem gamblers seek help and international evidence indicates that help seeking remains largely crisis driven.

What is included in the report Problem Gambling Geography of New Zealand 2005?
The report looks at where gambling venues and problem gambling counselling services are located in New Zealand. The report also includes maps of every District Health Board and territorial authority, which show the locations of gambling venues and problem gambling counselling services.

What is included in the report Problem Gambling in New Zealand: Analysis of the 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey?
This report gives the prevalence rate of problem gambling, for the total population and for demographic groups. It also includes the risk factors for problem gambling, and shows that people with gambling problems are significantly more likely to be daily cigarette smokers. They are also more likely to have an established pattern of drinking that carries a high risk of future damage to physical or mental health, but has not yet resulted in significant adverse effects.

What should I do if I'm concerned someone may have gambling problems?

If you are concerned about someone who may have gambling problems, you can approach the following services for advice:

- Counselling services

- Face-to-face problem gambling counselling services, such as Problem Gambling Foundation or Oasis

- Helplines such as Gambling Helpline (0800 654 654)


ENDS

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