Results from the third report in the Department of Internal Affairs New Zealand Gaming Survey indicate that problem
gamblers come from a wider cross section of society, and are more likely to be women, than they were a decade ago.
'Taking the Pulse on Gambling and Problem Gambling in New Zealand: A report on phase one of the 1999 National Prevalence
Survey', found that up to 50,000 New Zealanders aged 18 years and older currently experience gambling problems. Between
58,000 to 107,700 adults experienced gambling problems at some stage during their lives.
These findings come from a Statistics New Zealand survey of 6,452 adults, selected at random from households throughout
New Zealand. They were released today by the survey team leader, Professor Max Abbott, Dean of the Faculty of Health
Studies at Auckland University of Technology, during an address to the Committee on Problem Gambling Management in
Professor Abbott and Dr Rachel Volberg, principal investigators of the New Zealand Gaming Survey, conducted a national
survey of gambling and problem gambling in New Zealand during 1991. The present study is the first national replication
study undertaken internationally, enabling comparisons to be made over time.
Based on survey respondent reports, total annual gambling expenditure was approximately $1.2 billion, similar to
Department of Internal Affairs official gambling expenditure statistics, which show that $1.05 billion was spent on the
major forms of legal gambling in 1998.
While men reported higher expenditure than women, the survey found the gap between men and women had narrowed since the
earlier 1991 survey. Relative to 1991, young adults were spending less and older adults more. Pacific Islanders reported
the highest expenditure, followed by Maori, Europeans and Asians, and other ethnic groups.
To some extent, the high gambling expenditure groups were also the groups that had the highest levels of problem
gambling. As in 1991, Pacific Islanders and Maori had very high rates of problem gambling. However, in contrast to the
situation in 1991, men no longer had higher rates of serious problem gambling than women. Employed people had higher
rates than the unemployed and other people not in the paid work-force. People aged 18-24 years reported low problem
"Problem gambling appears to have become more feminised, aged, and has gone a bit up market", said Professor Abbott.
Professor Abbott said survey findings provide some support for the view that the introduction of casinos would lead to
an increase in gambling problems.
"When we controlled statistically for other factors known to be associated with problem gambling, people in Auckland and
Christchurch had higher rates than people living elsewhere. However, the forms of gambling most strongly associated with
problem gambling were, as in 1991, non-casino gaming machines and track betting."
The survey found that approximately one-in-four people who reported weekly gaming machine participation and one-in-five
weekly track betters had experienced gambling problems at some time.
An important finding is that although just over 1% of adults are currently problem gamblers, they account for about 20%
of total reported gambling expenditure.
Professor Abbott said that one of the biggest surprises was the failure to find any evidence for an increase in the
overall prevalence of problem gambling, given the expansion of gambling since the 1991 survey.
"On the face of it, the prevalence of problem gambling appears to have decreased," said Professor Abbott. "However, it
is important to note that trends cannot be determined from just two measurement points and it is possible that the
prevalence differences between the surveys arose from differences in methodology. It would be premature to conclude that
problem gambling has leveled out or declined in New Zealand. Ongoing monitoring is required to assess the full social
and economic costs of problem gambling and inform government policy."
According to the Department of Internal Affairs the survey results are, statistically, extremely robust, given the large
sample size and a high public response rate of 75%. The response rate is higher than any other published gaming
A consortium led by Professor Max Abbott and Dr Rachel Volberg was commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs to
conduct the New Zealand Gaming Survey. Both are regarded as international leaders in the area of gaming research. Other
members of the consortium include Statistics New Zealand, the National Research Bureau, and Taylor Baines & Associates.
Funding for the New Zealand Gaming Survey came from the undistributed profits of the Lotteries Commission, and the
Committee on Problem Gambling Management.
The full text of both reports will be available on the Department of Internal Affairs Website www.dia.govt.nz from 7
For further information: Professor Max Abbott:021 680 583 09 307 9894 or 09 631 5470