Rules crackdown on pokies isn't enough - review all gambling, public health group says

By Muriwai Hei

Māori adults are five times more likely to become problem gamblers than other New Zealanders. A Māori public health group, Hāpai Te Hauora, hopes the government's new rules for pokies will force venues to take more responsibility to prevent problem gambling but wants more action taken.

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti launched a new set of rules after the review of pokie machines. Among them are that there will be a focus on increased penalties for venues that are non-compliant with the rules legislated in the Gambling Act 2003 and strengthening host responsibility requirements for venues.

Hāpai Te Hauora is a leader in gambling harm prevention in Tāmaki Makaurau, and also nationally through health promotion, policy development, and advocacy for whānau to leverage strengths-based approaches to reducing harm from gambling in their own communities.

“The gambling industry has targeted our communities. They put their machines in neighbourhoods that our whānau are living in, and that's as simple as it gets," Hāpai te Hauora chief executive Selah Hart says.

Hāpai Te Hauora has its say on govt's gambling solutions.

Wider review needed

 "I think there are a whole bunch of reasons why our whānau experienced the most harmful levels of gambling and addiction."

But Hart says health services have been waiting for the government to acknowledge their call for a gambling and addiction review as well

“Here's an absolute disconnect when we're thinking about how we generate funds to be able to do community good, actually it's coming out of the pockets of the poorest people, who can ill afford to be losing their pay week after week, day after day into these machines.

"So it's a really vicious cycle, a vicious cycle for the individual but a vicious cycle for our community and society. So we want to see a total overhaul of the legislation. And we hope that the minister has enough time from now until the beginning of next year when she's indicated that she will be getting her officials to look into this because obviously next year we'll be in an election year," Hart says.