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Pokies Still No. 1 Problem for Gamblers

12 January 2005

Pokies Still No. 1 Problem for Gamblers

The Gambling Helpline says gaming machines ('pokies') remain the single biggest issue for problem gamblers, with more than 90% of its callers last year reporting gaming machines in pubs, clubs and casinos as their primary mode of gambling. This compares to casino tables at 3.7% and track betting at 4.1%.

Released today, the Gambling Helpline's 2004 year-end statistics show an increase of 1.6% in total calls to 20,869. There was strong growth in the number of repeat callers, up 13% on 2003, while the total number of new callers was down nearly 9% on the previous year. However, 2002 and 2003 were exceptional years with a major increase in callers, co-inciding with extensive media coverage of problem gambling and the Gambling Act. Once the Ministry of Health's proposed public education and media campaigns get underway, it is expected that there will again be large increases in people seeking help.

For the first time since record collections began in 1999, NZ Europeans/Pakehas represented less than 60% of callers, with Maori, Pacific Island, Asian and other ethnic groups all increasing.

The proportion of female gamblers (to males) also decreased, dropping slightly below 50% of total gambler calls for the first time in four years. However females still made up a large proportion of 'significant others' (concerned spouses, partners, family members or friends) calling the Gambling Helpline, at 73%.

Gambling Helpline Chief Executive Gary Clifford says the real success story for 2004 has been the integrated care programme, a joint initiative between the Helpline and face to face counselling agencies. This programme is being watched with interest and envy by overseas problem gambling agencies and governments.

More than 3,400 people opted to participate in the integrated care programme, where the Gambling Helpline gives them ongoing support. This programme is provided to people with a gambling problem, people who have overcome their gambling problem and people affected by someone else's gambling. Participants agree to follow-up calls at one, three, six, 12 and 18 months, as well as receiving face-to-face gambling counselling from other agencies.

"Over 400 clients have completed the 18 months, providing us with information on their safety and wellness progress at each point," says Mr Clifford.

Some of the positive comments from these 400 clients include the changes which have taken place since they first sought help, citing improved family and work relationships, more financial security, increased interest in sports and other activities which have replaced the gambling.

"Many have been surprised to receive our calls given the time that has passed since their initial contact with gambling services. They have expressed gratitude and astonishment that "someone cares after all this time."

"Internationally, this is one of the few 'outcomes' programmes tracking the progress of clients with gambling problems who have sought help. It represents a unique partnership between the client, the Gambling Helpline and face-to-face gambling counselling agencies."

Visits to the Gambling Helpline website increased 50% in 2004, with repeat visits also increasing. The website includes self-help resources and a 'chat room' talking point with over 3,000 postings.

Mr Clifford says the Helpline has plans to develop its online resources to meet the increased demand from gamblers and concerned others.

"In 2005 we'll be developing the self-help and peer-support parts of our website, including a more sophisticated and interactive online self-assessment tool," says Mr Clifford.

"Given the choice and the 'hidden' nature of this problem, we believe many people would opt to complete an easy to use, plain language initial online self-assessment on their gambling as the first step in identifying and addressing the problem."

ENDS

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