Tackling gambling harm to improve mental health and equity

The Government has today announced its updated national strategy to prevent and minimise gambling harm, says Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa.

“Gambling harm is a serious mental health issue. This work is directly linked to the wellbeing of New Zealanders and supports healthier and safer communities,” said Jenny Salesa, who launched the new strategy at South Seas Healthcare Clinic in Otara, South Auckland.

“Currently about 5 per cent of New Zealand’s population experiences some level of individual gambling harm, and 1 in 5 New Zealanders will be affected by their own or someone else’s gambling during their lifetime.

“The Government has allocated $60.339 million over three years for the new strategy, including an additional $5 million to pilot new services and support innovation to improve equities.

“Improving equities for Māori, Pacific and Asian communities, which are disproportionately impacted by gambling harm, is a key focus of the new strategy.

“In He Ara Oranga, the report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, gambling was seen as harmful due to its addictive nature and the financial stress and anxiety it causes families, contributing to neglect of children and family violence.

“The Strategy aligns strongly with service changes recommended in the Inquiry, particularly those which recognise the voice of lived experience and the explicit prioritisation of Māori and other population groups.

“The Strategy also aligns with the mental health and addiction initiatives in Budget 2019, which aim to improve access to a range of free services and support for mental health and addiction.

“Gambling harm levels have reduced substantially compared with 25 years ago, however, they have plateaued in the last five years.

“While many New Zealanders gamble occasionally without any harmful effects, for those who do experience harm from their or someone else’s gambling, these harms can be significant.

“We want to refresh our existing services to address the needs of those most vulnerable communities.

“We will be retaining our strong focus on improving equities while also piloting new services and funding a consumer network and peer support to include the voices of people with lived experiences of gambling harm.

“Consumer networks are already commonly used in other areas of health and include people who’ve had experience (in this case in gambling harm) who can then assist the development, delivery and evaluation of services and programmes.

“The Ministry already works incredibly closely with the sector to address gambling harm and a new consumer network will mark the start of an even closer partnership.

"The cost of the Strategy is recovered by a problem gambling levy paid by non-casino gaming machine operators, casinos, the New Zealand Racing Board and New Zealand Lotteries Commission.”

More information on the Strategy can be found here