Problem Gambling in New Zealand
Preventing and Minimising Gambling Harm
In recent years, gambling-related harm has emerged worldwide as a significant social and health issue. New Zealand has seen a significant rise in the consumption of gambling products and player losses over the last decade – with a parallel increase in the number of people seeking help for problem gambling.
In September 2003 Parliament passed the Gambling Act, which lists the preventing and minimising of harm caused by gambling, including problem gambling, as one of its purposes.
Cabinet has decided that the Ministry of Health will be the department responsible, under the Act, for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling, including: funding and coordinating national and local problem gambling services; raising awareness of the risks of problem gambling; and conducting in-depth research about problem gambling in New Zealand so that we can learn more about the harm it causes.
On 1 July 2004 the Ministry of Health assumed responsibility, from the Problem Gambling Committee, for funding and coordinating problem gambling services. These services will be funded through a levy on gambling operators.
The Ministry of Health has developed an integrated problem gambling strategy that will provide services and support to people affected by problem gambling as well as promoting wellness and minimising harm through public education, information and policy. It acknowledges that to prevent and minimise gambling harm, government agencies must work collaboratively, and a comprehensive approach to the provision of services and programmes is required that covers the continuum of harm, including public health (primary prevention) and intervention (secondary and tertiary) services.
Alongside the strategy, the Ministry has also prepared:
- a needs assessment,
- a proposed three-year funding plan, and
- proposed problem gambling levy rates.
Problem gambling is a new service area for the Ministry of Health, and in order to provide a well-planned and transparent approach, these four documents were incorporated in the Preventing and Minimising Gambling Harm consultation document.
The Ministry consulted on the integrated strategy in April 2004, and then presented on the proposed levy rates and the funding plan to support the integrated strategy at a meeting convened by the Gambling Commission in June. The Gambling Commission has forwarded its recommendations on the proposed problem gambling levy rates and the Ministry's three-year funding plan to Ministers King and Hawkins (Ministers of Health and Internal Affairs).
Ministers Hawkins and O'Connor announced the problem gambling levy rates on 2 September, as part of new harm minimisation regulations for gambling operators. Over the next three years the Ministry of Health will spend a total of $54.5 million managing and delivering the strategy to prevent and minimise gambling harm, which will be reimbursed by the levy.