How much, how often, how many?

28 Sep, 2021
How much, how often, how many?
Associate Professor Maria Bellringer

New global gambling guidelines could help reduce related harm post-lockdown.

The lower-risk gambling guidelines, developed as part of a global project led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), provide straightforward quantitative limits to help people make informed choices about their gambling.

This new guidance is the culmination of five years work and collaboration with an international group of experts, including researchers at AUT.

Associate Professor Maria Bellringer, Director of the AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, says the lower-risk gambling guidelines will become an important component of the public health response to reduce the harms related to gambling.

“The guidelines focus on what individuals can do to decrease their risk of gambling-related harms, but there are also environmental influences, such as gambling accessibility, promotion and regulation, that are critical to reducing gambling harms,” says Bellringer.

Lower-risk gambling guidelines

  • How much? – No more than one percent of household income per month.
  • How often? – No more than four days per month.
  • How many? – No more than two types of gambling or games.

All three guidelines must be followed to reduce the risk of experiencing harms from gambling.

Further information about at-risk populations and contextual factors have also been developed. And supporting information and collateral will be adapted for New Zealand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on gambling behaviour, with increased online gambling during lockdowns followed by spikes in gambling at venues when restrictions are lifted.

Lisa Campbell, National Operations Manager at The Salvation Army Oasis, which provides problem gambling counselling and support services, says it is timely for these harm minimisation guidelines.

“Many of our clients experienced some relief from gambling harms while venues were closed over lockdown, but the risk escalates when people go back to their normal routines. We are also concerned about the growth of online gambling,” says Campbell.

Andree Froude, Director of Communications at the Problem Gambling Foundation, says different types of gambling pose different risks.

“The types of gambling that make it more difficult to stick to the lower-risk gambling guidelines include pokies, online casino games, and Instant Kiwi scratchies,” says Froude.

Selah Hart, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora, which works regionally and nationally to address health inequities, says those who operate and regulate gambling services need to be more accountable.

“Guidelines like this will only go so far as long as gambling continues to be poorly regulated in Aotearoa. The gambling industry and its regulatory bodies need to be part of the solution moving forward, rather than leaving it to agencies like ours to pick up the pieces,” says Hart.

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