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How Much, How Often, How Many - Three New Global Gambling Guidelines Could Reduce Harm From Post-lockdown Gambling

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on gambling behaviour, with increased online gambling during lockdowns followed by spikes in venue gambling when lockdowns are lifted.

Now, three new global gambling guidelines could help to answer the tricky questions about how much gambling is safe and how can I tell if my gambling is a problem before it gets serious?

In a project led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), the lower-risk gambling guidelines were developed to provide straightforward quantitative limits for people of legal gambling age who want to make more informed choices about their gambling.

To reduce the risk of experiencing harms from gambling, all three guidelines must be followed:

· HOW MUCH? Gamble no more than one percent of household income per month.

· HOW OFTEN? Gamble no more than four days per month.

· HOW MANY? Gamble regularly on no more than two types of gambling or games.

These guidelines are the culmination of over five years’ work and collaboration with an international group of experts, including researchers at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

Associate Professor Maria Bellringer, Director of the Gambling and Addictions Research Centre at AUT, says the lower-risk gambling guidelines will become an important component of the public health response to reduce the harms related to gambling.

“The guidelines focus on what individuals can do to decrease their risk of gambling-related harms, but there are environmental influences, such as gambling accessibility, promotion and regulation, that are also critical to reducing gambling harms,” she says.

Selah Hart, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora reiterates that whilst we do need to focus on whānau and those suffering from gambling addiction and related harm consistently, there has to be more accountability put on those who operate and regulate gambling services.

“Guidelines like this will only go so far, as long as gambling continues to be largely poorly regulated in Aotearoa. The gambling industry and its regulating bodies need to be part of the solution moving forward rather than leaving it to agencies like ours to pick up the pieces,” she says.

Lisa Campbell, National Operations Manager, The Salvation Army Oasis, says this is a timely release for harm minimisation guidelines as we know that many of our clients experienced some relief from gambling harms while venues were closed over lockdown; but the risk escalates when life resumes back to normal routines.”

“We are also concerned about the growth of online gambling as this is often seen in addition to pokie and Lotto gambling which raises the risk level,” she says.

Andree Froude, Director of Communications at the Problem Gambling Foundation, says it’s important to remember that these are guidelines only and as with alcohol, limits are personal and different types of gambling pose different risks.

“Gambling online, in casinos or pubs and clubs that offer fast paced games that encourage you to play for longer, to spend more money and to play again and again are highly risky, whereas a single Lotto ticket purchase, for example, does not provide that addictive experience,” she says.

“The types of gambling that make it more difficult to stick to the lower-risk gambling guidelines include pokies, online casino games including slots, and Instant Kiwi scratchies.”

In addition to the three key guidelines, further information on at-risk populations and contextual factors have also been developed. The supporting information and collateral will need to be adapted for the New Zealand population.

For further information on the Lower-Risk Gambling Guidelines visit www.gamblingguidelines.ca

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