Gambling harm is a topic that has been tackled by regulators and governments around the world. Regularly, a new law or bill is passed or created to make the industry safer for those who enjoy partaking in the entertainment that gambling offers.
Unfortunately, for some, gambling harm is more than just a small number of people who need help to deal with overspending.
In New Zealand, the Mapu Maia, a gambling support service for the Pasifika peoples, is calling for the government to step in and implement stricter laws.
The Forgotten Pasifika Peoples
Pasifika peoples, a term used to describe people that live in New Zealand and have migrated from the Pacific Islands (including by ancestry or heritage), are in need of help.
According to Gerhart Berking, the spokesperson for Mapu Maia, a Pacific gambling support service, the Pasifika peoples are more likely to be at risk of gambling harm. This is compared to the rest of New Zealand.
Due to living in areas with higher deprivation and poverty, where more opportunities to gamble are present, the percentage of people who experience gambling harm is massive. In fact, more than 21% of those in New Zealand who seek treatment for gambling harm are Pasifika peoples.
The correlation between gambling harm, family or partner violence, and the risk it places on women and children can no longer be ignored.
A Call for Tougher Gambling Laws
Berking has called on the leaders of Christchurch to follow the example of many other regions and change gambling laws to help their people.
The request to adopt a policy that changes gambling environments entirely is currently the main drive as many Pasifika peoples live in areas that are saturated by pokie machines that are freely available.
Berking commented on the immediate areas of concern saying:
"Pacific [people] are disproportionately affected by gambling than relative to the rest of NZ. We need stronger policies to change our gambling environments… a higher level [of] advocacy."
It’s come to light that Pasifika peoples in Christchurch are twice as likely to come head to head with severe gambling harm than any other group of people in New Zealand.
Phil Siataga, Mapu Maia’s Canterbury-based counsellor, revealed that gambling was still a hidden problem that many people tend to ignore. But this can no longer be the case.
Siataga commented that he was concerned that Covid would put more pressure on people than ever before. He continued:
"Pokies are the biggest problem that we see because by the time they get to us there is usually a lot of damage that's been done."
Whether or not the New Zealand government will respond and make the necessary changes remains to be seen. But it is evident that the Pasifika peoples are in serious need of an intervention.