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Stigma May Be Barrier for Maori, Pacific Gamblers

21 March 2006

Stigma May Be Barrier for Maori And Pacific Island Problem Gamblers

Concerns about the stigma associated with problem gambling may be stopping Maori and Pacific Islanders from seeking help.

Pasifika Gambling Helpline team member at the Gambling Helpline, Jo, says traditionally, Pacific Island and Maori people find it difficult to share problems which may be seen as bringing shame on a family or community.

“Pacific Island and Maori people often try to fix the problem on their own and continue to gamble, which unfortunately can lead to greater harm for both themselves and their families.”

The Gambling Helpline received over 2800 new contacts from problem gamblers and significant others (family and friends) in 2005. Five percent of these contacts were made by people with a Pacific Island background, while 15 percent of contacts had Maori descent. In contrast to Pacific gamblers who were evenly split with slightly more males than females, for Maori, females made up the greatest proportion of gamblers and significant others.

Although the overall contact levels are similar to population numbers, Jo says the contacts from Pacific Island and Maori people do not reflect the large numbers suffering in these communities from problem gambling and its affects. Previous research has indicated that Maori and Pacific people are disproportionately affected by gambling problems compared to other ethnic groups.

According to Jo, Pacific Island men historically adopted gambling at the TAB as a socialisation technique to combat the isolation felt following their arrival in New Zealand.

“They also brought with them intricate social structures, where money is often shared within a family or the church – the further up the hierarchy you are, the more money you have to give.

“The pressure of this financial commitment can lead to gambling. They may think that through gambling they can re-coup money for everyday living, and the ability to gamble has been made easier by increased access to gambling amenities such as pokie machines and casino facilities in their communities. The reality is that you cannot make money gambling,” she says.

Gambling Helpline chief executive, Krista Ferguson, says it is important that Pacific Island and Maori people feel comfortable coming forward to seek help and realise that they are not required to identify themselves.

“Our Maori and Pacific helplines provide a free service, and are run by people who understand the unique family and cultural pressures found in these communities. Callers don’t have to use their names when they access these services, and that first contact can provide some real relief from the pressures resulting from gambling problems.

“There are now more culture-specific services available and we are able to connect a person with these if required. We always value the choice of the person who contacts us, whether they want mainstream, Maori or Pacific-based services,” she says.

Maori Gambling Helpline team leader, Glenis, encourages Maori to use the helpline and maintain regular contact.

“Maori protocols such as karakia and waiata are observed if required. We also have some great facilities on our website but with access to internet services sometimes out of reach for Maori people, it is important that problem gamblers and their whanau use the gambling freephone number for help,” she says.

If you are worried about your own gambling or that of someone close to you call the Maori Gambling Helpline 0800 654 656 (Wednesday 5-9pm, Saturday 8am-12noon) or the Pasifika Gambling Helpline 0800 654 657 (Tuesday 6-10pm, Thursday 6-10pm). Alternatively contact the main Gambling Helpline 0800 654 655 any day of the week.


Gambling Helpline received a total of 2879 new contacts in 2005 of which 1752 were received from gamblers.

Percentage of total new Pacific or Maori contacts in relation to all new contacts:
Pacific Island: 5% consisting of: 45% Samoan, 18% Cook Island Maori, 20% Tongan, 3% Fijian, 14% Other Pacific Island
Maori: 15%

Percentage of total new Pacific or Maori gambler contacts in relation to all new gambler contacts
Pacific Island: 6%
Maori: 20%

Of the contacts from Pacific and Maori:

All Pacific contacts: 55%
Pacific gambler contacts: 49%
All Maori contacts: 69%
Maori gambler contacts: 69%

All Pacific contacts: 45%
Pacific gambler contacts: 51%
All Maori contacts: 31%
Maori gambler contacts: 31%

Significant others (whanau or friends)
All Pacific contacts: 17% of which 72% are female and 28% are male
All Maori contacts: 17% of which 71% are female and 29% are male



Gambling Helpline 0800 654 655 (Monday–Friday, 8am-10pm, Saturday–Sunday 9am-10pm)

Maori Gambling Helpline 0800 654 656 (Wednesday 5-9pm, Saturday 8am-12noon)
Pasifika Gambling Helpline 0800 654 657 (Tuesday 6-10pm, Thursday 6-10pm)
Youth Gambling Helpline 0800 654 659 (Monday 5-8pm) or www.inyaface.co.nz
Gambling Debt Helpline 0800 654 658 (Saturday 12-4pm)

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