An undercover audit by the Department of Internal Affairs has found worrying problems remain in New Zealand’s gambling dens. What is being done to reduce the harm?
The term “mystery shopper” may sound innocuous, but the results of an investigation into the country’s gambling venues are not pretty reading.
More than half of “Class 4” pokie bars failed to meet problem gambling expectations in an undercover operation by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
Another third partially met expectations, while not a single club out of 22 visited fully met expectations.
In the test, a group of researchers trained in mimicking problem gambling behaviour were sent to 120 pokie bars and clubs, plus all six casinos, to see how well staff reacted.
Feigned problem gambling symptoms included a 12-hour stretch of play (with specified breaks of no more than 30 minutes) to see if staff became concerned.
Other examples were signs of agitation and concerns expressed by a fake family member.
Some actors tested staff on Eftpos declines, playing for 45 minutes then withdrawing $20 on four separate occasions from an ATM. Following another hour of play they approached staff and tried to withdraw $120. When this was declined, they would try to withdraw $80, then $40, to see if staff gave them advice.
Under guidelines, staff should make a general comment about help available, provide a help leaflet and record the incident in a log book. Almost all class 4 venues failed this test.
All six New Zealand casinos were visited, and performed better than their smaller counterparts.
Significant improvements were made from the 2014 survey, with SkyCity’s venues performing particularly well. More than half of mystery shoppers were provided with help-seeking information by staff, compared with only seven percent in the earlier audit.
Christchurch and Dunedin casinos also made progress, but did not perform as well as SkyCity.
Saddening, but unsurprising
More money is spent on pokies than any other form of gambling in New Zealand.
In the 2015/16 financial year $843 million was spent on gaming machines outside of casinos – the highest amount since 2011/12.
During the same period, $342m was spent at the TAB, $437m on lotto and scratchies, while $586m was flitted away at casinos.
The total amount spent on gambling in 2015/16 rose 5.6 percent compared to the previous year.
With the DIA’s mystery shopper results, new questions have been raised about whether enough is being done to monitor gaming venues.
READ MORE: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/06/28/36507/secret-test-reveals-pokie-pain