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MEDIA RELEASE 

Porirua community members will be calling for stronger action on pokies as the City Council wraps up consultation on its proposed Class 4 gambling policy next week.
 
The verbal hearings are taking place at Te Rauparaha Arena on Wednesday 12 June and community members will be voicing their concerns about pokies and the harm they cause to the community.

Porirua-based filmmaker, Tony Sutorius, who will be speaking at the hearing, said pokie machines are clearly and simply a negative for Porirua and he doesn’t believe there is a genuine community demand for them.
 
“We were better off before they existed here, and we should remove them completely, right now,” he said.

“A young woman approached my son and I in Mana two weeks ago, begging for two dollars so she could win more on the Sandbar's pokies.”

“Pokies steal from our poor, and the ethical fig leaf they create for themselves by giving a thin slice back to some local good causes is corrupting our community's will to simply say no,” he said.

Tony Sutorius said pokies are nowhere close to worth the cost in tangible harm caused to our vulnerable neighbours.

“For every dollar being taken away from our most vulnerable neighbours, only seven cents comes back. It’s absolutely, obviously not worth the tremendous harm it’s causing.”

In 2018, nearly $13 million was lost on the 165 pokies in Porirua City’s 12 venues. Ten of those venues are situated in the most deprived areas of the City.
 
While harmful gambling can affect anyone, research indicates that both Māori and Pasifika peoples are considered high risk for gambling harm. 
 
Naomi Solomon, spokesperson for Ngāti Toa, said Porirua has a high Māori population and they are disproportionately impacted by pokies.
 
“We know how much harm pokies cause in our communities and we want the Council to take a stronger stand on these addictive machines. The policy the Council is proposing just doesn’t go far enough to protect the vulnerable and we are continuing to see money being lost on pokies by people who can’t afford to be losing it,” she said.
 
Pesio Ah-Honi, National Director Pacific Services at Mapu Maia, said with the high number of Pasifika living in Porirua, pokies would have a significant impact on the community.
“Over 26 percent of the population of Porirua are Pasifika,” she said.
“The Council need to take into account the impact of its policy on vulnerable communities when considering the gambling policy for the City. What Porirua needs is a strong sinking lid policy for pokies with no relocations or club mergers permitted,” Pesio Ah-Honi said.
 
“What the Council is proposing is weak, and the amount of funding that comes back to the community in no way makes up for the harm that these machines cause.”
 
Verbal hearings on the Porirua City Council’s gambling policy are taking place on Wednesday 12 June at Te Rauparaha Arena, 17 Parumoana Street, Porirua, starting at 8.30am.
For further information, please contact:

Tony Sutorius
Ph 027 286 7325
 
Naomi Solomon
Resource Management & Communications Manager
Ngāti Toa
Ph 0273677418
Naomi@ngatitoa.iwi.nz
 
Pesio Ah-Honi
National Director Pacific Services
Mapu Maia
Ph (04) 9798326
 
Andree Froude
Director Communications
Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ (now trading as PGF Group)
Ph (09) 3690723

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MEDIA RELEASE

The Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) applauds Hamilton City Council on its proposed pokies policy and urges Hamiltonians to have their say.
 
The Council is currently reviewing its Class 4 (pokies in pubs and clubs) gambling venue policy and is proposing a sinking lid policy, but it is strengthened by not allowing any relocations or venue mergers.
Have your say on pokies in Hamilton - YouTube
Andrée Froude, PGF spokesperson, says the Council’s proposal is the gold standard of pokie policies.
 
“The Council’s two policy options are sinking lid policies meaning no new pokies will be permitted at a Class 4 venue, but the proposed policy will not permit a venue to relocate with its pokies to another site, or permit clubs with pokies to merge,” she said.
 
In 2018 Hamilton City lost nearly $25 million in the 424 pokies located in the 28 pubs and clubs in the City. Fifteen of the 28 pokie venues are located in areas with a “very high” deprivation rating.
 
The amount that went back into the City in the form of grants from pokie trusts between January 2018 and March 2019 was approximately $7.2 million.
 
Andrée Froude said with SkyCity Hamilton Casino’s application to deploy 60 additional pokie machines in substitution for three BlackJack tables currently before the Gambling Commission, the need for a strong and effective policy on pokies in Hamilton pubs and clubs is vital.
 
“The Council has signalled its stance on pokies by proposing a strong sinking lid policy for pokies in pubs and clubs and for its opposition to SkyCity’s moves to increase the number of pokies in its casino,” she said.
 
“Although casino pokies are outside the scope of the Council’s gambling policy review, the Council has given a strong message that it doesn’t want any more pokies in Hamilton City.”
 
“Sinking lid policies don’t go far enough, but it is the best policy we have available to gradually reduce the numbers of these addictive machines in our communities. Hamilton City Council have raised the bar with its proposed policy, and we hope other councils around the country will do the same.”
 
Have your say on Hamilton City Council’s gambling policy review. Submissions close 17 June 2019.
https://haveyoursay.hamilton.govt.nz/strategy-research/proposed-class-4-gambling-venue-policy-2019/
 
If you, or anyone close to you, has a gambling problem, free and confidential help and support is available www.pgf.nz

ENDS
For further information, please contact:

Andree Froude
Director Communications and Marketing
Ph (09) 369 0723

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The Gambling Commission has received hundreds of submissions in opposition to SkyCity’s application to substitute three Blackjack tables for an additional 60 pokie machines in its Hamilton Casino.

After initially consulting with only a few stakeholders about this application, the Gambling Commission subsequently opened submissions to the public after the considerable public interest became evident, particularly in the Hamilton and Waikato communities.

Written submissions closed on 17 May and many organisations and individuals have expressed their opinions, including social services, concerned community members and Hamilton City Council.   
The Taranaki Suicide Prevention Group shared a story of a young Taranaki father who could not recoup his losses from the pokies so sadly took his life. They said gambling is present in many cases of those who come into their care.

Another submitter said that substituting pokies for Blackjack is like “comparing apples and oranges.” Hamilton City Council has a sinking lid policy on pokies and the submitter said that “allowing an 8% increase in Electronic Gaming Machines [pokies]… would be a slap in the face to our community’s desire to reduce harm.”

A submitter who used to work in an administrative capacity at the Casino said “what the Casino earned on the higher entry cost to table games did not make up for the greater numbers and higher frequency of visits by people predominately using the pokie machines.”  
All written submissions are now publicly available on the Gambling Commission’s website.

You can read the PGF Group submission by clicking here.

So, what happens now? Relevant parties now have the opportunity to reply to written submissions; the deadline for these will be 31 May and they will be published on the Gambling Commission’s website.

The Gambling Commission will then hold a public hearing, and those who requested, and are accepted, to speak to the Commission will have the opportunity to do so. The date and location of the public hearing is yet to be set. 
Author

Kristine Aitchison is the communications coordinator at the PGF Group. For more information on our blog please contact kaitchison@pgf.nz

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Earlier this month we were shocked to hear of SkyCity’s plans to start an online casino. Is this even legal, you ask? 

Apart from the TAB (NZ Racing Board) and MyLotto (the Lotteries Commission), the Gambling Act prohibits online gambling.  

But it’s not illegal if that website is based overseas. 
 
SkyCity is going to exploit that loophole in the law to launch an online casino based in Europe and the Government can’t do anything about it under our existing laws. 

The only thing SkyCity won’t be able to do is advertise its online casino to New Zealanders because that is illegal, but by leveraging its brand and using SEO (search engine optimisation) to make it easy for Kiwis to find its site, well…that’s probably not going to be too difficult to get around that law either. You will only need to Google SkyCity, and its online casino will feature in the search results. 

And that’s concerning. 
Online gambling is a very risky form of gambling. Smart phones mean you can literally carry it around in your pocket. The online gambling environment is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there’s not a lot of consumer protection, particularly on websites based overseas. 

It’s highlighted the fact that our Gambling Act is no longer fit for purpose. The growth of online gambling and the fast pace of technology development has left gaping holes in our laws that need to be filled.  

It’s pleasing that Internal Affairs Minister, Tracey Martin, recognises this and has stated that a paper will come out in April with public consultation to follow. 

In Australia, the law is much tougher. 
"Online gambling is a very risky form of gambling. 
​Smart phones mean you can literally carry it around in your pocket. The online gambling environment is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Under the Interactive Gambling Act (2001) it is illegal for a gambling operator to provide an online casino to someone in Australia.  

And it doesn’t matter whether that site is based in Australia or overseas, it’s still an offence under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. 

“The Act doesn’t target gamblers or potential gamblers; it targets the internet service providers (ISPs) who follow The Interactive Gambling Industry Code in dealing with online gambling hosted outside Australia. It includes a provision for ISPs to provide one of the approved filters listed in Schedule 1 of the Code.1” 

We will follow this with keen interest. We don’t want to see people being put at risk by being able to gamble on unregulated international sites, nor do we want to see the gambling industry being able to circumnavigate our law to provide online gambling to New Zealanders. 

What SkyCity are trying to do completely flies in the face of one of the core purposes of the Gambling Act; to prevent and minimise the harm from gambling, including problem gambling. 
[1] Department of Communications and the Arts. (2019). Interactive gambling. Retrieved from https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/internet/internet-governance/online-gambling
Author

Andree Froude is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the PGF Group.
For blog enquiries please email kaitchison@pgf.nz.

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In breaking news, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), has just announced that it has charged a manager of a gambling venue for allegedly failing to take all reasonable steps to identify a problem gambler. As yet, we don’t know any specific details as the matter is now before the courts. 
This has never happened before in New Zealand and sends a strong and clear message to all venues that there are consequences if venue staff do not abide by the law and ensure that they assist patrons that are displaying signs of harmful gambling.

Venues are required under the Gambling Act to have at least one person on site who is trained in problem gambling awareness and they have to be able to approach a player that may be experiencing difficulties with their gambling.

Venue staff should look out for signs that someone’s gambling could be problematic. This includes: attempts to borrow money on site, agitation, attempts to cash cheques, their family and friends showing concern, long gambling sessions, trying to jam the pokie machine so it plays automatically, playing more than once a week, and children left unattended.

If there is a conviction there will be a fine, but more importantly, they won't be able to operate a gambling premises again.
 
We applaud the DIA for this prosecution and hope it fires a warning shot across the bow of all gambling venues that they have obligations under the law to look after their patrons and make sure their staff step in and help anyone that is displaying signs of harmful gambling.
Author

Andree Froude is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the PGF Group.
For blog enquiries please email: kaitchison@pgf.nz.

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So, you’ve been really good and managed to reduce or abstain from gambling for a few months or even years. You’ve attended regular appointments with your gambling harm counsellor; taken up a new hobby; continued to talk to people you trust; kept away from your usual gambling haunts; exercised regularly; and maybe even started a journal to write down your feelings. But then the holiday season happened, and your gambling relapsed.

Relapse happens, but it’s not a reason to despair. It can be treated as a learning opportunity and an opportunity for change. Typically, January and February are very busy times of the year for our service, with new and existing clients contacting us for help. So, we asked some of our counsellors the main reasons people relapse during the holiday season; and what you can do to support your own recovery. 
1. Family, home and work pressures.
The needs of family and the pressures of work and/or home life leading up to Christmas can feel like an impossible tug-of-war. On top of this, we may feel pressured to see people whom we wouldn’t normally see and feel judged for having debt or a gambling problem. Feelings can build up like a pressure cooker that needs a release, and at these times gambling to escape can seem like a powerful relief. 

What you can do?
Believe in yourself and your recovery. Practice positive self-talk and watch your self-judgement and resentment towards others. Feelings are not facts – listen to the facts: there may be valid reasons to leave some tasks until after the holidays; there may be valid excuses to not visit some people. Talk to people you trust and let go of people who are not supportive of your recovery. 
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2. Financial pressures.
It is common for people to see gambling as a way to provide financially, especially around Christmas when there is added pressure to buy presents. We often see people who may have had a big win and feed their winnings back into the pokie machine or place bigger bets in the hope of buying bigger and better gifts for more people. This is a big motivator that typically only occurs during Christmas when there’s an urgency for gifts. 

What you can do?
There is no quick fix, so try to live within your means. Before getting a loan, consider seeing a budget advisor. Many loan sharks charge exorbitant interest rates and high fees, meaning a $2000 loan could end up costing you over $5000; that is, if you pay it back on time. We don’t recommend loan sharks and if you use your credit card, try to consider how long it will take you to pay it back. There are some great ideas or ways to give meaningful gifts for little or no cost, i.e. make a craft, food, or gift a voucher for your time, such as babysitting. Avoid giving money or gambling products as a gift to someone who gambles; instead give them a gift voucher as an alternative. 
3. Lack of routine. 
Some clients told us that they relapsed during the holiday break because of a lack of a normal routine. Having extra free time on your hands, could mean there is more time to think about gambling and feed into those old urges and habits. If you pair this with an already tense home life or difficult family relationships, this could increase your urge to gamble. 

What you can do? Plan your days so they are supportive of your recovery and maybe include a social activity. Keep yourself busy: listen to music, visit a friend, do a crossword, look for new ideas and be willing to try other things instead of gambling. Seriously consider self-exclusion from your regular gambling venues or an app or website-blocking software to block online gambling. 
4. No access to counselling and a lack of support.
Some clients told us that they relapsed during the holidays and felt more depressed because they didn’t have access to their usual counsellor. Feeling like you have no one to talk to can contribute to gambling relapse, so it is important to make connections with people, communities and organisations who can offer that support when your regular counsellor isn’t available.

What you can do? Have a list of people you trust and can talk to as part of your recovery plan. Stay in touch with supportive people; attend regular self-help meetings, if possible, and make new friends. Ask for ongoing support. PGF Services duty counsellor service allows people to speak directly to a counsellor when they call our 0800 number, and during the holiday season we had counsellors available on non-statutory days. The Gambling Helpline is a 24-hour, 7 day a week service which you can also call on statutory holidays. 
Follow us on Instagram @pgfservices
5. Isolation and loneliness. 
People often start gambling as a way to escape loneliness. Gaming venues and casinos are seen as a good place to meet new people and socialise. During the holiday season a lack of routine and being away from work, can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation as you watch others going to family events or celebrating together; and loneliness is a significant trigger to relapse. This trigger was also especially true for people who had migrated to New Zealand and felt isolated and alone during the holiday season.  Many migrants wanted to know what a New Zealand Christmas was all about, and places like the casino offered a safe place to socialise, as well as Christmas themed promotions.
   
What you can do?
Stay away from your old gambling venues and gambling buddies and seriously consider self-exclusion. Find other things to do with your time and make new friends. Some suggestions: join a sports team, volunteer and help others, go to a cultural event, join the gym, find a church or religious community, take an art class.  If you are looking for new social connections there are ‘meet up’ apps that link people with similar interests, such as walking groups or movie nights. You may also choose to try a GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meeting. These groups are available all year round and usually don’t close over the Christmas period.
6. Casino promotions.
During the holiday season the casino offers a lot of holiday themed promotions. They have daily promotions where you just have to be at the casino to win, and while there, people could be tempted to gamble. VIPs get treated as special by the casino and are given gifts at Christmas time. One of our clients told us that a lot of places are closed over Christmas, but the casino is always open all night, even on Christmas day.

What you can do? Unsubscribe from promotional emails sent to you by the casino. Make plans with friends or family and again consider self-exclusion from the casino. 
Follow us on Instragram @pgfservices
Small lapses or full relapses happen; and we can’t change what happened, but we can use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s worth thinking about: What led you to think about and plan to gamble again? What did you try to do to stop yourself? What worked and what didn’t? There is always a point when the pressure rises to a place when you think “stuff it – this is too hard” (or stronger language!), so what steps can you take next time to prevent these pressures from overwhelming you?

All you can do is keep taking small steps forward and enjoy today. Keep talking to the people you trust and believe in yourself and your recovery. Allow yourself to celebrate being free from gambling harm!

To make an appointment or talk to one of our counsellors call 0800 664 262 or email help@pgf.nz
Author

Bridgitte Thornley is the National Director Counselling Services and Public Health Support at PGF Services. For more information or to contact us about this blog please email kaitchison@pgf.nz.

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Recently we received some positive feedback about a software that you can download on your computer and mobile device that protects you from accessing gambling websites. It’s called Gamban, and the website states that “it’s the smartest, most effective software in the world for blocking online gambling sites and apps.” While this may read like an advertorial for Gamban, we thought the feedback was too good to ignore and wanted to share it with our readers. If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with online gambling, this could be worth a try.
One Gamban user who successfully installed the app on his phone, told a PGF counsellor that Gamban “is awesome, blocks all gambling sites and access to them, including the TAB. There is an annual cost, but it is not that much. Also, the great thing about the app is that it cannot be uninstalled.”

Another user absolutely raved about the benefits of Gamban to his counsellor and questioned why he hadn’t installed it ages ago. He hadn’t gambled online for the last three and a half weeks and “is the happiest I’ve been in three years” due to the many positive changes in a short space that have occurred. He has struggled over time with why he can’t just use willpower and “just stop.”
Introducing gamban® - Vimeo

Introducing gamban® from gamban® on Vimeo.

After hearing this positive feedback, we thought we’d share with you some of the benefits of Gamban he told us about, compared to other software that he has tried:
  • Gamban was a tenth of the price of others
  • It hasn’t affected his other apps and internet/ Google searches like others have
  • The app icon is very discreet
  • He was able to install it very quickly and it is compatible with most devices
  • Hasn’t been able to “override” it like he has with other apps
  • He has said that he would give it a 5/5 review

One of the many problems with online gambling, is the accessibility. Once you’ve got a gambling account, you can access it from your phone, tablet, or desktop computer, anywhere and anytime; it’s really difficult to get away from. Although many individual gambling operators provide some sort of self-exclusion, it’s only for their gambling sites and while they may stop taking your money, you can be sure another operator will be quite happy to!
According to an article in The Guardian published last year, Gamban “blocks 40,000 gambling sites and applications from users’ devices, and, by using a live database, it also removes the gambling element, skins betting, from E-sport games.”

That’s comprehensive coverage and Gamban reassures potential users on its website that “gamban® blocks gambling sites and ONLY gambling sites, making it the least intrusive option available.”

While researching Gamban for this article, I discovered one of the developers had battled his own gambling problem so developed the software in 2015 to help others in the same situation. They’ve deliberately kept the cost low to help those struggling with a gambling problem.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with a gambling problem don’t forget we are always here to provide help and support. While an app might help you keep away from temptation, that is only one tool in the toolbox and talking to somebody who understands will help you work towards your long term goals.
Author

Andree Froude is the Marketing and Communications Director at PGF Group. She has worked in communications and public relations for over eight years in both the public and private sector before joining the PGF Group in May 2009.

For more information on our blog please email kaitchison@pgf.nz.

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What a busy year for Territorial Local Authority (TLA) gambling policy reviews!  We were involved in 14 over the course of the year: Christchurch, Dunedin, Grey District, Hamilton, Kaipara, Marlborough, Nelson, Selwyn, South Waikato, Stratford, Tauranga, Waikato, Waimate and Westland.

Alongside that, some councils either start pre-consultation at the end of this year and roll over into 2019 or are due to go out for consultation early in the New Year.

So, what exactly does “being involved” mean? Advocacy is a big part of what we do, and gambling policy reviews provide the best opportunity for us to engage with local councils about Class 4 venues (pubs and clubs with pokies) and TABs in their communities. It’s also a chance to encourage others to have their say about pokies in their neighbourhoods and raise awareness about the harm pokies cause to individuals, families and communities. 
Advocacy is a big part of what we do, and gambling policy reviews provide the best opportunity for us to engage
​with local councils about Class 4 venues (pubs and clubs with pokies) and TABs in their communities.
We write formal submissions to councils, prepare reports, and present at verbal hearings; encouraging other individuals and organisations to do the same.

A sinking lid is the policy we advocate for; that just means if a venue closes the pokies can’t be moved to another pub or owner. We also advocate for no relocations or club mergers.

It was encouraging to see Hamilton City Council propose the ‘gold standard pokie policy’ this year: a sinking lid with no relocations or club mergers under any circumstances. Although the proposal was voted down by the council (due to pressure from sporting and community groups that receive funding from pokies), we applaud them for taking such a strong stance. We hope to see other councils follow their lead in the future. 
We would like to see councils have more power
​to reduce the numbers of these addictive machines, particularly in our more deprived communities where the majority of pokies are situated.
Does a sinking lid go far enough? Unfortunately, no it doesn’t. Sinking lid policies take a long time to reduce pokie numbers. We would like to see councils have more power to reduce the numbers of these addictive machines, particularly in our more deprived communities where the majority of pokies are situated. While we want to see pokies removed from struggling communities, we also need to be mindful that we aren’t just moving the problem or creating inner city pokie dens.

Next year, we will continue to push for a reduction in numbers of pokie machines and work with local councils to ensure the best possible outcome is achieved for the wellbeing of the community.
Author

Andree Froude is the Marketing and Communications Director at PGF Group. She has worked in Communications and Public Relations for over eight years in both the public and private sector before joining the Problem Gambling Foundation in May 2009.

For more information on our blog please email kaitchison@pgf.nz.

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