The number of people affected by problem gambling has stabilised according to the latest New Zealand national health survey results (2012). However, the survey showed that 1 in 40 people are negatively affected by other people’s gambling.
The survey also showed that over 50% of New Zealand’s population aged 15 years and over had participated in some form of gambling during the last 12 months.
Gambling expenditure in 2013 was $2.1 billion (the amount lost by gamblers – the difference between the amount gambled and the amount returned as prizes), a massive increase from the net loss of $567 million 20 years ago. Most of the growth in expenditure was due to a significant increase in spending on non-casino gaming machines.
An encouraging trend is that expenditure on non-casino gaming machines has been falling since peaking at $1 billion in 2004. Controls on the number of machines introduced since then by most local authorities have resulted in a decline in losses on gaming machines of $209 million between 2004 and 2013, but the net annual loss was still $826 million during 2013.
The fastest growth in gambling losses over the last six years has been on New Zealand Lotteries Commission products. The net loss on Lotto and other Commission products in 2013 was $432 million, an increase of 25% from 2008, reflecting significant spending on advertising by the Commission. Other areas of spending were the TAB ($294 million) and Casinos ($520 million).
It has been estimated that millions of dollars worth of productivity are lost by business and industry through absenteeism, wasted time, poor work performance, loss of income, criminal acts such as theft, accident, rehabilitation and recovery, and medical treatment due to gambling and gambling related problems. In addition to this and unseen to most, it has been shown in the USA that a quarter of all family disruptions, neglected or abused children, divorces, impoverishment, mental breakdowns, and suicides were able to be traced back to the negative affects of gambling. In light of these statistics, why have so many bought into the notion that gambling is nothing more than harmless entertainment? What is gambling and why do people gamble?
Gambling in the strictest sense is a method by which a person can get rich quick without having to earn the wealth by labour. It breeds selfishness, greed, and covetousness and, in fact, promotes them. Regardless of how socially acceptable the practice of gambling has become, it preys on the weaknesses of others, contrary to the commandment to love our neighbour as our self. Gambling is a disease that wrecks finances, families, and careers and as a community we need to continue to do more to discourage its spread in New Zealand. The easiest action we can take against gambling is to make a submission the next time your local Council (City or District Council) is reviewing the number of gaming machines in your area. Check your local Council website or phone them to see when the next review is coming up.