It is not all doom and gloom in the flurry of press releases marking the second annual Gamble Free Day in New Zealand. The Charity Gaming Association points out that the number of people seeking help for gambling problems fell 20% in 2005, with the downward trend continuing this year. New Zealand, according to the Association, is unique in requiring that gambling proceeds (with the exception of casinos and the racing industry) be distributed to the community. The charitable trusts distribute over NZ$300 million (US$196.1 million) in grants to community groups each year.
Gamble Free Day (1 September) is being supported by the New Zealand Council for Social Services. The Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) will release 1000 balloons in Wellington to represent New Zealand’s problem gamblers, said to number 100,000. The idea behind the gambling free day is to raise public awareness and knowledge. The theme for the event is ‘Make a Difference.’ The PGF says that gambling is often a problem among migrant communities, notably from some Asian countries, as well as the Maori and Pacific population.
Last year New Zealand’s gamblers lost NZ$2.027 billion (US$1.3 billion) and the primary mode of gambling (81%) was gaming machines, or pokies as they are called in Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand gambling industry contributes over NZ$300 million (US$196.1 million) in annual gaming duty to the government. The government has tightened gaming laws and brought in many new measures to limit problem gambling, making the New Zealand gaming industry one of the world’s best regulated. (E-09.01.06)
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