Spike in number of new calls to gambling helpline

The number of new clients seeking Gambling Helpline support increased by nearly 10 percent in 2007, Ministry of Health statistics show.

The ministry’s annual gambling statistics report showed the number of new people seeking phone or face to face help was up from the 2006 figure of 2648 people.

The ministry said the change in the number of people seeking help from its problem gambling services did not necessarily equate to a change in the prevalence rates of problem gamblers.

Minimising harm group manager Barbara Phillips said it was encouraging that over 85 percent of clients reported they had lost less money in the four weeks prior to their reassessment than in the four weeks prior to their first assessment.

The data showed in the vast majority of cases non-casino pokie machines were the primary source of harmful gambling.

They showed that slightly fewer than 45 percent of new Gambling Helpline clients were identified as New Zealand European/Pakeha, and that Maori and Pacific Island people were over-represented.

Statistics suggested that at any given time, between 0.3 percent and 1.8 percent, or 10,000 and 50,000 adults in New Zealand were likely to score as problem gamblers on standard questionnaires.

Analysis of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey estimated that one in 19 were at low risk and one in 50 were at moderate risk of their gambling being a problem.

A further 0.6 percent of gamblers met the criteria for problem gambling.

The behaviour of each severe problem gambler was also likely to affect between seven and 17 other people to some degree.

The Ministry of Health statistics also showed there was a substantial increase (24.4 percent ) in the number of interested other clients contacting helpline services.

Those statistics referred to people requesting help because of concerns about the gambling behaviour of friends or family members.