NZ venues need to do more to minimize harm

Gambling venues in New Zealand are getting better at helping problem gamblers, but need to do more, says New Zealand Internal Affairs’ Director of Gambling Compliance, Gareth Bostock.

Late last year, The Department conducted a mystery shopper exercise to assess how well venue staff were fulfilling their Gambling Act obligations for preventing and minimizing gambling harm.

Trained researchers, displaying signs of harmful gambling, tested staff responses at 120 pokie bars and clubs and all six casinos across the country.

“We set some high standards for this exercise, expecting staff to demonstrate that they care for their gambling customers.” Bostock said.

“Few operators in the class 4 gambling sector met all expectations, but many more met partial expectations. So we are seeing improvements, particularly around how operators want to help venues to care for their customers.  

“There were improvements in casinos, but some more is required here too. The three casino companies in New Zealand have put considerable focus on harm minimization practice since 2014 and we have noted a significant change in culture with a stronger focus on minimising harmful gambling.

Bostock noted that casino operator Skycity did particularly well in this regard.

“The four SkyCity casinos made significant improvements, not only to systems and processes but also to culture and staff attitude towards helping those who display signs of harmful gambling,” he said.

Preliminary results from the Ministry of Health’s 2016 Health and Lifestyle survey indicate there is no increase in the overall prevalence of problem gambling from 2014 to 2016.

The Department said it is using the latest mystery shopper research to target its regulatory activity and help the sector lift performance.

It will tackle poor performing operators in particular through education and training in partnership with the Health Promotion Agency; inspect venues for harm minimisation practices; use sanctions where appropriate.  

 “Where we identify poor performance we will work with societies on appropriate action,” Mr Bostock said. “The licence for an individual venue will still be open to cancellation.