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Is the new gov strategy enough to address gambling harm?

Hāpai te Hauora congratulates Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa and her colleagues on today’s launch of the 3-year strategy to reduce gambling harm and their decision to increase the proportion of the gambling levy funded from the money lost by gamblers.

Hāpai are pleased to see specific funding allocated to new initiatives such as residential care for the most addicted problem gamblers, peer-support networks and technology pilots, such as a possible facial recognition database as first steps to further changes.

The strategy was released this morning at South Seas Healthcare Clinic in South Auckland where gambling amongst Pacific woman and youth are increasing and the communities are disproportionately populated with pokie machines compared to other parts of Auckland and across the country.

Hāpai te Hauora CEO Selah Hart says "Our biggest concern is how many barriers there are for whānau to access support for problem gambling, particularly amongst Māori, Pacific, Asian and young adult population groups in New Zealand."

$60 million is provided for the strategy which includes $5m for new services and innovation pilots, targeting those most adversely affected by gambling harm, particularly Māori, Pacific, Asian and low-income groups.

Hart says "Of the $2.4 billion spent by kiwis last year on gambling, this strategy is cheap and if it works to reduce gambling harm even at minimal levels over the next 3 years, it will be money well spent."

"The innovations are promising but again they still only provide a tiny amount compared to the need that we know is out there. For example the residential care programme would target a small number of severely addicted gamblers, they say about 5 people a year, they have about 37,000 people aged 15 years or older who are categorised as "problem gamblers", who will they pick?"

"Our biggest priority in the gambling harm space is the absolute need to reduce access to non-casino gaming machines. According to the Department of Internal Affairs, pokie machines collected $895 million alone last year, this is up 2.9% compared to the previous years despite a previous drop in pokie machines."

The strategy document shows that the Ministry of Health will work with providers to develop and pilot a clinically robust model of care, based on intensive treatment for people experiencing severe gambling harm, but likely allowing for support for co-existing issues in addition.

Peer-support involves people who have recovered from gambling addiction, and is a service that health advocates say has been missing for a long time. The strategy document also says that, the outcomes from peer services are as good as if not better than conventional services, yet there currently are no funded peer-support positions within gambling harm services.

"A good start, and a welcome step in the right direction but there needs to be fast action on boosting support for the programmes that prove successful so that momentum isn't lost on reducing gambling harm in Aotearoa." Concludes Hart.

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