Australians gamble more than New Zealanders and the numbers of problem gamblers are not only higher, but there is also a higher percentage of them amongst the gambling population. According to the state-run Problem Gambling organization, there are as many as half a million problem gamblers (and potential problem gamblers) in Australia. Many assume that problem gamblers pump money into the economy, but in truth they can be very costly to society and the impact of this issue in Australia is said to cost the government nearly $5 billion. This is because problem gambling can ruin social lives, relationships and careers, and it often occurs alongside other addictions and mental health problems. It also has a knock-on effect, and Problem Gambling estimate that for every one gambler, there can be as many as ten people (friends, family, employers, employees, etc,.) adversely effected.
In New Zealand, it has been estimated that there are between 10.000 and 60.000 problem gamblers, which accounts for less than 2% of the population, and can be as low as just 0.3%. Although around the same percentage of the populations of New Zealand and Australia gamble, one of the main differences between these two populations is that the main gambling activity in Australia is pokies, which can be very addictive and plays on the same areas of the brain that drugs and video games do, whilst New Zealander’s tend to prefer to play the lottery, which has a very low potential for addiction.
In New Zealand, gamblers that think their gambling is getting out of hand can “self-exclude” themselves from casinos and other gambling venues. Much like the online self-exclusion, where websites such as Royal Vegas Casino allow players to effectively “ban” themselves from banking with the casino and using their software for real-money gambling, these self-exclusions help to keep problem gamblers away from gambling. The gamblers simply need to inform the operator of the venue about their exclusion and the law states that those who then allow those problem gamblers back into their premises can face hefty fines, as can the gamblers themselves.
There are only six casinos in New Zealand and as things like pokies can only be run by charitable foundations — with the money going to a good cause, often helping the local community — these are not very prevalent. Australia is different though and pokies are located throughout the country in thousands of venues, whilst casinos are also in plenty supply. According to the gambling law in Australia, gambling services are not allowed to advertise, but they are still very widespread and it will be very difficult for any problem gambler to exclude themselves.
It has been estimated that for every 6 regular pokie players, 1 of them has a serious problem, and the fact that there are more pokies and far more pokie players in Australia than there are in New Zealand, suggests that Australians face more problems when it comes to gambling addiction. There are also more of them faced with such an addiction, but despite this, only 15% of them seek help. That is a very small number when you consider how negatively it can effect people’s lives. In fact, despite being a relatively social problem, considering people gamble out in the open, the rate of addicts seeking help is the same as females who seek help from an eating condition, which is a very personal thing.
Many assume that gambling addiction is not as severe as other addictions, and that gambling addicts are easy to spot, but this indicates that that is far from the case and that many people’s lives could be affected without their friends or family knowing about it. Luckily, governments in both Australia and New Zealand do a lot to help those with gambling addiction, and the help they offer is improving. Unfortunately, the amount of problem gamblers in both of these countries, especially in Australia, is also on the rise, and it may be that the only way the government can effectively put an end to these problems is by banning pokies altogether, which would be a huge shame.