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Select Committee told how to eliminate harm

...Press Release...

March 5, 2008

Select Committee told how to eliminate harm

The select committee on the Gambling Act Amendment Bill will be told that harm from gambling can be eliminated.

The Problem Gambling Foundation is making oral submissions on the Bill at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Mangere at 10:10 am today.

CEO John Stansfield says we now know enough about problem gambling to make big inroads into the problem.

He says that most problem gambling revolves around the use of pokie machines and these can be made much safer.

"When these machines were first introduced to New Zealand we knew very little about them.

"There were no safety checks and huge numbers flooded into our communities virtually unchecked. It's hardly surprising this resulted in a lot of harm."

Mr Stansfield says that communities are now far more aware of the dangers and technology has provided the means to make pokies much safer.

Recent research by the Department of Internal Affairs shows that 90% of people now think we have a growing problem with gambling. Mr Stansfield says this is reflected in the pressure communities are placing on local government to restrict the number of pokie venues.

"There is strong public recognition that access to pokies needs to be reduced through control of the supply of them," he says.

"We will be telling the select committee that local government needs more powers to meet the wishes of their residents."

Mr Stansfield says that player tracking and precommit software programmes were proving very effective in reducing gambling harm overseas and should be introduced here as soon as possible.

The Problem Gambling Foundation has had a strained relationship with the committee because the committee has declined to hear oral submissions from problem gamblers who wished to talk about the harm pokies had done to them.

Mr Stansfield says he will be focusing on presenting a compelling and well researched case for the changes his organisation believes are necessary.

We know some of the members of the committee are very hostile to our organisation but we are all affected by gambling harm and it is too important to let egos interfere with good judgement.

"We expect committee members to put aside any personal animosity and look at the evidence that is presented to them."


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