A recent article from Stuff discusses potential funding cuts to problem gambling services in New Zealand and the impact that could have. The article interviews the Southern Regional Gambling Director, Maria Barnes, who explains that proposed funding cuts by the Ministry of Health could set back progress in reducing gambling harm by 20 years.
The article notes that the Ministry currently provides around $25 million per year to gambling harm reduction services nationally. However, under new proposals, that funding would be cut by up to 35% over the next four years. For Barnes' Southern Regional service, that could mean cuts of nearly $700,000 per year.
Barnes argues that these cuts come just as they are making good progress in reducing gambling harm: "To lose any gains we've made in that space would be detrimental, not only to services but to communities and population groups we support." She worries funding cuts could see staff laid off, fewer public health initiatives, and reduced clinical support services.
The article cites research from Auckland University showing that Māori and Pacific communities suffer disproportionate gambling harm. Barnes reinforces this, noting her service has strong connections with those groups which could be lost. Other vulnerable groups, like the elderly and those with mental health issues, could also lose support.
In the original article from Stuff, Barnes sums up her concerns: "We could potentially go back 20 years and lose all that momentum, education, awareness and dedicated support that we've established over that time."
Overall, the article highlights fears that gambling harm reduction progress could stall or reverse if the Ministry of Health goes ahead with proposed cuts to services like those run by Barnes. The impacts could be particularly bad for vulnerable communities already facing greater gambling addiction challenges. It presents a worrying outlook for the future of gambling harm reduction in New Zealand.