The Gambling Act 2003 seeks to balance the potential harm from gambling against the benefits of using gaming machines as a mechanism for community fundraising.
Money returned to authorised purposes through grants totals approximately $300 million annually. In addition to the external grants, clubs such as RSAs and Workingmen’s Clubs receive approximately $50 million each year in gaming proceeds to assist with meeting the clubs’ operating costs. This funding is crucial for a very large number of community groups.
New Zealand has a very low problem gambling rate by international standards.
The New Zealand National Gambling Study: Wave 2 (2013) found the problem gambling rate was 0.5% of people aged 18 years and over (Problem Gambling Severity Index screen). This amounts to 16,205 people. The study also found that 1.5% of adults were moderate-risk gamblers, and 5.6% were low-risk gamblers. The problem gambling rate is for all forms of gambling, not just gaming machine gambling.
The reasons for an increase or decrease in problem gambling are complex and multi-faceted, not simply the direct by-product of an increase or decrease in gaming machine numbers.
The New Zealand problem gambling prevalence rate over time bears no correlation to the number of gaming machines operating in New Zealand.
Between 1991 and 1999 the problem gambling rate declined considerably despite gaming machine numbers doubling and gaming machine expenditure trebling. Between 2006 and 2010 the problem rate increased, despite the number of gaming machines in New Zealand falling considerably in the same period. Between 2010 and 2012 the problem gambling rate stayed the same, despite a continual decline in gaming machine numbers.
Existing Gaming Machine Safeguards
Significant measures are currently in place to minimise the harm from gaming machines.
Limits exist on the type of venues that can host gaming machines. The primary activity of all gaming venues must be focused on persons over 18 years of age. For example, it is prohibited to have gaming machines in venues such as sports stadiums, internet cafes, and cinemas.
There is a statutory age limit that prohibits persons under 18 years of age playing a gaming machine.
There are very restrictive limits on the amount of money that can be staked and the amount of prize money that can be won. The maximum stake is $2.50. The maximum prize for a non-jackpot machine is $500.00. The maximum prize for a jackpot-linked machine is $1,000.00.
All gaming machines in New Zealand have a feature that interrupts play and displays a pop-up message.
The pop-up message informs the player of the duration of the player’s session, the amount spent and the amount won or lost. A message is then displayed asking the player whether they wish to continue with their session or collect their credits.
Gaming machines in New Zealand do not accept banknotes above $20.00 in denomination.
ATMs are excluded from all gaming rooms.
All gaming venues have a harm minimisation policy.
All gaming venues have pamphlets that provide information about the characteristics of problem gambling and how to seek advice for problem gambling.
All gaming venues have signage that encourages players to gamble only at levels they can afford. The signage also details how to seek assistance for problem gambling.
All gaming venue staff are required to have undertaken comprehensive problem gambling awareness and intervention training.
Any person who advises that they have a problem with their gambling is required to be excluded from the venue.
It is not permissible for a player to play two gaming machines at once.
All gaming machines have a clock on the main screen. All gaming machines display the odds of winning.
The design of a gaming machine is highly regulated and controlled.
For example, a gaming machine is not permitted to generate a result that indicates a near win (for example, if five symbols are required for a win, the machine is not permitted to intentionally generate four symbols in a row).
It is not permissible to use the word “jackpot” or any similar word in advertising that is visible from outside a venue.
All gaming machine societies contribute to a problem gambling fund.
This fund provides approximately $18,500,000 per annum to the Ministry of Health to support and treat gambling addiction and to increase public awareness. The funding is ring-fenced and not able to be redirected to other health areas.
An excellent, well-funded problem gambling treatment service exists.
The problem gambling helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Free, confidential help is available in 40 different languages. Free face-to-face counselling is also available and specialist counselling is available for Maori, Pacifica and Asian clients. An anonymous, free text service (8006) is available. Support via email is also available (firstname.lastname@example.org).