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Breaking the Stigma: Improving Problem Gambling Awareness and Support in New Zealand

awareness and stigma surrounding problematic gambling that
Posted on January 10, 2024

A recent study by GambleAware in the UK found that two-thirds of people experiencing gambling harm keep the issue hidden and do not seek support. This indicates a concerning lack of awareness and stigma surrounding problematic gambling that prevents people from getting the help they need.

These findings raise important questions about the state of gambling harm awareness and support services available to Kiwis. New Zealanders love an occasional flutter, whether buying a Lotto ticket or placing a bet on the TAB. However, for some, gambling stops being just a bit of fun and becomes an unhealthy compulsion that damages finances, relationships, and mental health.

While detailed statistics on gambling addiction rates in New Zealand are lacking, some estimates indicate over 40,000 Kiwis suffer from moderate to severe gambling harm. However, less than 1% of this group ever seeks help from support services like the Problem Gambling Foundation. This mirrors the trend observed in the GambleAware study, where stigma and desire to keep gambling activities secret prevent people from reaching out.

More concerningly, Pasifika and Māori communities in New Zealand have disproportionately high rates of gambling harm. These groups also frequently view seeking support for addictions as bringing shame, which compounds the stigma barrier. Targeted, culturally informed harm prevention strategies and treatment programs are greatly needed to reach these high-risk demographics.

In light of the UK findings, increased public health efforts are required in New Zealand to educate people on signs of unhealthy gambling and break down stigma barriers that stop them from seeking support. Schools-based awareness programs, reduced-stigma helplines, and screening initiatives integrated with primary healthcare could help address this.

Responsible gambling advocates also suggest tighter government regulations around gambling advertising and venue location/density restrictions may play a preventative role in reducing temptation and availability. However, any regulatory approaches would need to balance with individual liberties.

In summary, the GambleAware study highlights that problematic gambling continues to be a hidden issue shrouded in stigma, preventing many from seeking help. These concerns appear just as relevant in the New Zealand context based on the limited data available. Increased gambling harm awareness and support services focused on high-risk groups offer potential ways forward in addressing this. However, eliminating stigma remains the critical challenge in the path ahead.


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