Roughly 10% of New Zealand’s population is affected by problem gambling. The effects of problem gambling include psychological distress, poor health, financial difficulty and strained interpersonal relationships. However, a new land based and casino online study has shown that when local authorities tighten gambling regulations, player losses at the pokie machines and instant win games like Keno can be reduced a great deal.
The NZ Work Research Institute at AUT (NZWRI) has just released a report. The report is titled ‘Capping problem gambling in NZ: the effectiveness of local government policy intervention’.
The report was commissioned in 2020 by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health. It aimed to compare the outcomes of communities that have adhered to the minimum requirements of the Gambling Act of 2003 with those that put stricter regulations in place.
This Act limited the number of pokie machines allowed in pubs and clubs. Gambling venues like pubs and clubs are referred to as ‘non-casino establishments’ even though they offer games similar to a casino online. The Act also required each territorial authority, also known as a TA, to establish their own local policies pertaining to the regulation of the number of pokie machines within their own communities.
The report found that when communities decided to go above and beyond just the legislative requirements of the Gambling Act of 2003, both the availability of pokie machines, as well as the amount of money that players lost, reduced significantly. In fact, player losses fell by between 10 and 14% within the first two years of implementation alone – considerably more than anyone had anticipated.
The Head of NZWRI, and the leader of the project, Gail Pacheco, is also a Professor at AUT. She said that the research highlights the importance of evaluating policies for land-based venues and casino online sites on a regular basis. She added that the Gambling Act was an attempt to minimise the impact of problem gambling and to facilitate the community’s involvement in decisions regarding the supply of gambling. For example, pokies, which are highly accessible because they are so widely available, have the ability to inflict excessive harm that goes beyond the individual gambler.
Dr Christopher Erwin, a NZWRI research fellow, led the empirical research. He said that the results are a clear indication of how local authorities are able to reduce problem gambling within their communities. He added that the study shows that with tighter restrictions from local authorities, problem gambling may indeed be reduced, and that the study’s findings provide an evidence base for policymakers to draw from.