There are calls for regional New Zealand to bring in tougher laws to protect Pasifika against gambling harm.

No captionPhoto: RNZ/ Dan Cook



New Zealand’s Pacific peoples experience a disproportionate level of gambling harm compared to the rest of the country.

Christchurch City Council has renewed its ‘sinking lid’ policy, in place since 2004, which prevents new gambling licences in pubs and clubs from being approved. It also means existing licences cannot be transferred to other locations.

Pasifika peoples in New Zealand make up 21 percent of all people seeking treatment for gambling.

‘Saturated by pokie machines’

A spokesperson for the Pacific gambling support service, Mapu Maia, Gerhart Berking said in Pasifika were more likely to live in areas with higher deprivation and greater opportunities to gamble, navigating factors which contributed to gambling alongside barriers to accessing support for potential harm.

He encouraged other councils to follow Christchurch’s example by adopting the policy to “change gambling environments, because many people live in areas saturated by pokie machines”.

“Pacific are disproportionately affected by gambling than relative to the rest of NZ. We need stronger policies to change our gambling environments… a higher level advocacy.”

The population for Pacific peoples in Canterbury according to a 2018 census was 18,927.

Hidden problem

Mapu Mai’s only Canterbury-based counsellor, Phil Siataga said gambling was “still a very hidden problem and people slide into pathological harm”.

His concern was that Covid would put “more pressure on people financially because generally socio-economically pacific people’s status is generally low”.

“Pokies are the biggest problem that we see because by the time they get to us there is usually a lot of damage that’s been done.”

Pasifika are more than twice as likely to experience moderate to severe gambling harm than those any other group, he said.

Class 4 gambling is the most identified primary problem mode for Pacific clients receiving clinical support from Mapu Maia.

There is also strong correlation between gambling, and family, whānau or partner violence for women and children.