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Consultation on best approach to problem gambling


Consultation on best approach to problem gambling

New Zealanders are gambling away close to $1.5 billion a year and with problem gambling on the increase, the Ministry of Health wants suggestions on the best ways of coping with it.

The economic impact of gambling addiction is estimated to be in the millions of dollars per year, and on the rise. Because of this, the Government has introduced the Responsible Gambling Bill to help curb a problem affecting tens of thousands of New Zealanders.

That bill is currently before the Government Administation Select Committee and is due back before the house at the end of November. If it is passed it will give the Ministry of Health sole responsibility for coordinating problem gambling services.

In anticipation of this, Cabinet has asked the Ministry of Health to produce a draft plan, and public input is now being sought. A series of public meetings on the Draft Plan for Minimising Gambling Harm will be held from October 24 to Nov 15. Written submissions will also be accepted until November 29.

"Department of Internal Affairs figures show in the Year to June 2001, $1.459 billion was lost by New Zealanders to the gaming industry ? that's almost $400 per person, and double the total figure seven years ago," said Cynthia Maling, manager of public health policy.

"The number of new gambling helpline callers and people seeking counselling has also increased at a similar rate, with more than 5,000 people asking for help for the first time in 2001."

Currently services to help people addicted to gambling are mainly funded through the Problem Gambling Committee, which comprises representatives of the gaming sector and problem gambling service providers. There is no government agency directly responsible for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.

"The Problem Gambling Committee does an excellent job collecting levies on gaming activities and providing funds for services. However with gambling related harm emerging both in New Zealand and worldwide as a major health issue, it's becoming more appropriate for the administration of these services to be run by the Ministry of Health" said Ms Maling.

The Ministry's coordination role will be funded by an industry-wide levy on gambling profits. It will involve an integrated approach including preventative measures, treatment services and the research and evaluation of services.

Submissions close on the 29th of November. Submission forms can be found on the Ministry of Health's website:

http://www.moh.govt.nz/problemgambling

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