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Gambling Addiction Expert Praises $55m Funding

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Professor Max Abbott, head of AUT University's Gambling and Addictions Research Centre and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, commends the new $55m funding package announced to help combat gambling-related harm.

"Gambling remains a significant public health and social issue. The toxic brew bubbling in its wake includes crime, disruption to work and education, family violence, child abuse and neglect and a raft of mental and physical health problems." "Gambling is regressive with poorer people losing relatively more of their income on gambling. It's a reversal of the Robin Hood principle. Poorer people lose more and their losses (gambling operator's profits) have a strong tendency to benefit wealthier communities."

The $55m investment, 0.9% of estimated gambling profits, goes towards the Ministry of Health and across three years will be used to help fund front-line counselling, dedicated Maori, Pacific and Asian services, awareness and education programmes and resources, and also independent scientific research.

Professor Abbott said New Zealand is recognised internationally as a leader in its national public health approach to counter gambling problems and related harm. "Given the massive harm and social costs associated with gambling, one might argue that the less than one percent of gambling profits earmarked for treatment, public education, prevention and research is inadequate. On the other hand it is good to see a commitment to sustain expenditure around current levels." Professor Abbott said that while the service plan focuses on health sector initiatives, other government departments and territorial authorities have a major part to play. "The Department of Internal Affairs stands alongside the Ministry of Health in preventing gambling and related problems. Its role in the regulation of gambling is critical. The Department and territorial authorities have contributed to a significant reduction in the number of electronic gaming machines." Professor Abbott said the Department had also taken a lead in pointing to further ways to ways to reduce harm, for example by not allowing operators to locate gaming machines in 'outside' areas to get around smoke-free venue legislation. He said the smoking ban appears to have had a positive impact on gambling problems.

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