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More New Zealanders Seeking Problem Gambling Help

10 May 2004

NEW ZEALAND – (PRESS RELEASE) -- The number of people seeking help from problem gambling counselling services in 2003 continued the growth trend of previous years, according to national statistics published by The Problem Gambling Committee. The statistics also show that the total pool of New Zealanders who have been counselled for problem gambling in the past seven years is 33,518 - the equivalent of one in every 120 New Zealanders.

In 2003, 6,730 new people received problem gambling counselling through either the Gambling Problem Helpline or face-to-face personal counselling, up 9.1% on 2002.

While more people overall are seeking help each year, there was a slight decrease (1.5%) in new callers to the Gambling Problem Helpline, from 4,715 in 2002 to 4,644 in 2003 due to fewer general enquiry calls. Repeat (follow-up) calls to the Helpline increased 7.9% to 15,901 last year.

Gambling Problem Helpline Chief Executive Gary Clifford says that while the number of people seeking help for gambling problems continues to grow, there is also a growing awareness of the range of high quality services available for identifying and treating gambling problems.

"Problem gambling is a serious public health issue but the good news is that New Zealanders have access to the world's most advanced integrated counselling and support programme service," he said. "The figures illustrate that many New Zealanders will either know or associate with someone who has a gambling problem.

"Over the past seven years the Problem Gambling Committee has initiated a unique integrated care programme to assist people affected by gambling problems. Our helplines and telephone counselling services are integrated with face-to-face counselling, crisis support services, self-help tools and gambling debt counselling and budgeting services."

The Problem Gambling Committee Report states that the condition of three quarters of problem gamblers who were followed up after counselling had improved significantly, indicating the effectiveness of the services.

Mr Clifford says the main work of the Helpline has become helping people with problems related to gaming machine ('pokie') gambling.

"Gaming machines in pubs and clubs continue to be the main reason for people calling the Helpline - they're highly accessible and can be very addictive," he says.

Other highlights from the 2003 National Gambling Problem Counselling Report:

* The number of people who have received personal face-to-face counselling for a gambling problem for the first time ever rose 32.8% from 2002, to 3,284.

* The total number of calls received by the Gambling Problem Helpline in 2003 was 20,545.

* The number of female gamblers receiving face-to-face counselling has dramatically risen since 1997, with an increase of 482%.

* Female clients number have also risen in the Helpline, with males and females now seeking treatment in near equal numbers.

* Almost half the users of both the Gambling Problem Helpline and face-to-face counselling services are aged under 35 years.

* The majority of gambler clients seek help due to problems from gaming machines in pubs and clubs.

* More than a third of all people accessing Helpline and face-to-face counselling services come from the Auckland region (34%), followed by Wellington and Christchurch/Canterbury.

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