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2023: A Deep Dive into New Zealand's Fight Against Gambling Harm

12 January 2024
2023 was a watershed year for New Zealand's battle against gambling harm. From regulatory crackdowns to community initiatives and international lessons, the year brought both progress and challenges in addressing this issue. Let's delve deeper into some key moments...
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Māori Equity and the Systemic Roots of Harm:

The year saw a bold shift towards acknowledging the intersection of gambling harm and systemic injustices faced by Māori communities. The Huia Tāngata Kōtahi series tackled this head-on, sparking crucial conversations about how historical inequities and current policies contribute to higher gambling rates among Māori. This initiative, led by influential figures promoted both financial wellbeing and societal change, aiming to break the cycle of harm across generations.

Keeping an eye on the situation overseas:

New Zealand wasn't alone in its efforts to curb gambling harm. From across the Tasman Sea, New South Wales planned the introduction of cashless pokies which then ignited conversation about similar measures in Aotearoa. Meanwhile, the aggressive 22Bet advertising campaign featuring former Black Cap Brendon McCullum starkly highlighted the lengths that offshore online gambling operators will go to promote their products to Kiwis and exploit our laws and our largely unregulated online gambling environment.. In contrast, global examples like Australia's BetStop national self-exclusion register and the UK's gambling reform white paper offered valuable blueprints for policy changes in New Zealand.

Cracking Down on Irresponsible Practices:

Regulatory bodies took a firm stance against operators failing to uphold their host responsibilities. The Department of Internal Affairs' (DIA) unprecedented recommendation to suspend SkyCity's license for up to 10 days sent a shockwave through the industry. This action, stemming from concerns about SkyCity's inadequate identification and intervention for high-risk gamblers, signalled a new era of zero tolerance for irresponsible practices.

Community Voices Leading the Charge:

Grassroots efforts spearheaded by organisations like PGF remained at the forefront. PGF tirelessly advocated for stricter online gambling regulations and harm minimisation measures like pre-commitment and advertising restrictions. Its strong opposition to the TAB-Entain partnership raised crucial concerns about Entain’s past regulatory failures and the need for robust safeguards against increased harm from a powerful gambling monopoly.

Beyond 2023:

The path forward requires a unified front. Effective harm reduction demands collaboration between the government, gambling operators, providers of gambling harm treatment and public health services, and community stakeholders. Māori-led initiatives and culturally sensitive approaches remain crucial to addressing the specific needs of vulnerable communities. Public awareness campaigns, education programs, and accessible support services are also essential to create a safety net for those at risk.

Gambling harm continues to inflict pain on lives and communities across New Zealand. While 2023 brought significant steps forward, the fight is far from over. By acknowledging the systemic roots of harm, embracing international best practices, and prioritising the prevention and minimisation of gambling harm, Aotearoa can move towards a future where gambling creates minimal harm to individuals, communities and society. This collective effort requires sustained momentum, unwavering commitment, and a shared vision for a safer, healthier Aotearoa New Zealand.