New Zealand is an extremely diverse island, full of people from all around the globe. One of the nation’s largest populations is the Pacifika or native Pacific Islander peoples who now reside in New Zealand.
The Pasifika peoples face an asymmetric degree of gambling harm in their daily lives for various reasons, including locality. New Zealand lawmakers are now seeking to remedy this situation by introducing stricter gambling laws in Pasifika communities to protect at-risk individuals.
Who are the Pasifika?
The term Pacifika (or Pasefika) refers to to the people, cultures, and language of Pacific groups including Sāmoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and other smaller Pacific nations who now reside in New Zealand.
The Pacifika ethnic group is the fourth largest major ethnic group in New Zealand comprising 7.4% of the New Zealand population, all of whom identify with one or more Pacific ethnic groups.
The Pacifika are at a higher risk for problem gambling and encounter a disproportionate level of gambling harm when compared to the rest of New Zealand residents. Pasifika peoples in New Zealand comprise 21% of all people seeking treatment for gambling in the country.
The “Pokies” Problem
Gerhart Berking, a spokesperson for the Pacific gambling support service, Mapu Maia, said that one of the main issues facing the Pasifika community was the areas in which they reside. These localities tend to be at a higher disadvantage than other neighbourhoods as well as being completely saturated by pokie machines.
More numerous opportunities to gamble, combined with a lack of access to gambling harm support services has created a perfect storm of problems for a large number of Pasifika peoples. Not only do they face financial hardships for heavy gambling losses, but they also may face personal misfortune as relationships fracture under the strain of dishonesty and debt.
No deposit bonuses by New Zealand casino operators as seen on NoDepositHero are making it tougher for problematic gamblers who want to quit. Casino operators are in fierce competition with one another in the marketplace, leading to better and better bonus deals for new players. While these bonuses can be lucrative, they provide a dangerous incentive for problem gamblers who are actually looking for a way out.
“Sinking Lid” Policy
Christchurch has also attempted a so-called “Sinking Lid” policy — under which the rule is that when one gambling venue closes, another cannot be opened. This policy has been in place since 2004 and was just recently renewed, preventing new gambling licences in pubs and clubs from being approved and preventing existing licences from being transferred to other locations.
The goal of this initiative is not to put existing operators out of business, but rather, to limit the number of operators in a given area. It also allows each local council in the nation to approve new gambling venues on a case-by-case basis.
Some local councils, however, are attempting to change the “Sinking Lid” policy in recent months. They are being met with heavy resistance by problem gambling groups in New Zealand, bent on keeping the policy as it stands to prevent more pokies in saturated communities.
Unseen Problem Gambling in New Zealand
Phil Siataga, a Canterbury-based Mapu Maia counsellor said that within the Pasifika community, gambling was “still a very hidden problem” going on to say that “people slide into pathological harm” because of it.
Mapu Maia has reported that Class 4 gambling remains the most common issue for Pasifika clients that are currently receiving clinical support from the service. Under New Zealand law, Class 4 gambling consists of any gambling facility outside of a casino, such as gambling at pubs and clubs that are not designated “casinos”.
The unseen issues associated with gambling are far-reaching indeed.
Support for Problem Gambling
Mapu Maia, the Pacific gambling support service of New Zealand is an outstanding resource for the community, working toward raising awareness about addictions, mental health, and gambling harm.
Despite Mapu Maia’s diligent advocacy of at-risk problem gambling among New Zealand’s Pasifika peoples, the fact remains that because of the sheer volume of pokie machines in their communities, by the time they contact support, it may already be too late.
Mapu Maia has seen the destruction that problem gambling can cause. The service has discovered a strong correlation between an individual’s gambling habits and violence toward their family, including partners and children.
The socio-economic burden that many Pasifika are already struggling with, combined with an overabundance of gambling facilities in their communities has put an undue strain on this group of people — so much so that it’s caused many to call for tougher gambling laws, specifically to help them. If and when it comes to the attention of public authorities in the country, it will be interesting to see what officials and lawmakers will do to resolve the problem.