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Problem gambling; the carnage continues

Problem gambling; the carnage continues.

Despite a modest fall in the amount New Zealanders spent on gambling last year, demand for Salvation Army problem gambling treatment services jumped 16 per cent.

In 2009, The Salvation Army’s Oasis Centres for Problem Gambling helped 3200 problem gamblers and 950 relatives of problem gamblers. During the same period, a screening programme run by The Salvation Army’s South Auckland community services centre found 40 per cent of families seeking help were affected by problem gambling. Kiwis lost $2.028 billion that year from gambling.

While spending on gambling has receded slightly since the recession, it is clear to us the number of problem gamblers has not, National Consultant for Salvation Army Oasis programmes, Lisa Campbell-Dumlu, says.

She says casual gamblers deciding gambling is a luxury they can’t afford may explain the lower gambling expenditure.

“But it’s highly unlikely problem gamblers will call a halt to their harmful gambling simply because times are tough,” she says. “It’s more likely problem gamblers facing the stresses of the recession are looking to find an escape through gambling, which may go some way in explaining the rising demand on our services,” she says.

The annual Gamblefree Day on September 1 aims at raising awareness of the destructive nature of problem gambling. It is also an opportunity to show problem gamblers there are alternative activities to gambling.

“It is to show that if a person can stop gambling for a day, they can stop for weeks, months or for life – that there is a future for them beyond gambling,” Lisa says.

It is estimated between 10,000 and 60,000 New Zealand adults are addicted to gambling. Some of the by-products of problem gambling – debt, unemployment poverty, mental and physical illness, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, fraud and other crimes – mean its effects are estimated to be felt by up to 500,000 people.

On September 1, The Salvation Army will be running community-based activities in the four main centres and Tauranga. These will include BBQs, hangis, competitions, music, entertainment, as well as information for people affected by problem gambling. For further information contact your local Oasis Centre.


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