Editorial: Time to tackle social cost of the pokies
NZ Herald Nov 15, 2010
Parliament has made only desultory and discordant attempts to tackle the impact of poker machines. A serious examination of these insidious and addictive machines and their social cost is overdue. Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s Gambling Harm Reduction Bill should be that opportunity.
The Australian Productivity commission found that 5 to 10 other people can be directly affected to varying degrees by the behaviour of a problem gambler. There are far too many pokie machines in our communities. Recent figures show 1 machine for every 180 kiwis, yet 1 for every 4000 in US.
Significant risk factors include being between 25-34, Maori or Pacific ethnicity, lower educational attainment, being employed and living alone. Problem gambling is strongly associated with risky drinking behaviour and smoking. Other health problems for gamblers include stress-related health problems, major mental problems, and medical conditions.
Of most concern is the impact on families including domestic violence, unsupervised children, children going without food clothes and other necessities, and US research suggesting a link between gambling and physical and emotional abuse. The government says that this bill will not ‘minimise the harm caused while maximizing the returns to the community’ yet they seem unwilling to engage in a debate on the issue. We would ask them to allow the debate to happen.