AUT University: 27 April 2012
Technology will help minimise problem gambling but pokie cuts the real answer
SkyCity's plans to introduce harm minimisation technology should be commended, but cuts to the number of pokie venues are needed if we’re serious about reducing problem gambling says Professor Max Abbott, Director of AUT University’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre.
"I have advocated the introduction of these harm minimisation measures for a long time. One involves electronic monitoring of pokie players' past behaviour to detect people who are likely to develop or experience gambling problems. The other enables players to set limits on the amount of money they are prepared to lose and how long they play machines."
The technology has been trialled in other gambling settings overseas but Abbott is not aware of any other casino in the world that has introduced both of these measures.
“Other than removing machines, they hold more promise than other initiatives to reduce harm associated with regular pokie participation. That said, some caution is required until further information is made available, including information about how at-risk and problem gamblers will be approached and dealt with by casino staff. It will also be important to monitor their effectiveness, ideally through independent research, and make ongoing adjustments to improve outcomes."
Because problem gamblers generate a significant proportion of gambling revenue - about 20% across all forms of gambling according to research conducted in New Zealand – these measures will actually reduce casino income, says Professor Abbott.
"If government decides to change legislation and allow SkyCity to introduce additional machines and table games, these new measures are likely to help reduce adverse impacts.”
But these measures alone won't be sufficient, says Abbott.
“If we’re serious about reducing gambling-related harm we need to significantly cut the number of pokies in clubs and pubs, especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where they are most concentrated and do most damage. Over half of all problem gamblers live in the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods."
Professor Abbott said serious consideration should be given to extending the new SkyCity harm minimisation measures to all New Zealand casinos and gambling venues. "This development could have huge ramifications both locally and internationally. It sets a new benchmark in harm minimisation."