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Mayor demands more action on problem gambling

Published: 1:22PM Saturday May 05, 2012 Source: ONE News

Auckland's Mayor is calling for more action on problem gambling at Sky City following figures showing a tripling in the number of problem gamblers identified there in the past three years.

Documents prepared by the Auckland casino for the Gambling Commission reveal the number of customers showing signs of problem gambling has gone up from 661 in 2008 to 2582 last year.

Len Brown says he is particularly disappointed because the figures, obtained by ONE News under the Official Information Act, show that in the same period exclusions from the casino increased by only a quarter.

He says he is also concerned by reports that SkyCity's Host Responsibility programme has never been reviewed despite its license requiring that to happen every two years.

"They have to do better if they want to win the support of Aucklanders for the international class convention centre being proposed by the government and SkyCity," Brown said.  

"The Auckland and New Zealand economies desperately need the convention centre - we need the investment, we need the extra tourists, we need the jobs. At the moment all that goes to cities like Brisbane.

"However SkyCity has to do more to protect potential victims of problem gambling - greater harm minimisation, better host responsibility, ploughing more money back into the community."

Harm minimisation measures being suggested by the Mayor include harm minimisation officers on site 24/7, pre-paid cards to limit expenditure, harm minimisation screen savers which display before gaming begins and harm minimisation screen savers which activate when a win occurs.

Brown has not given SkyCity a timeframe to implement the suggestions, and stopped short of saying he will withdraw support for the convention centre deal.

In a statement, SkyCity said: "SkyCity is in touch with best practise around the world and consequently is confident its host responsibility is world class and does already in fact include some of the measures Mayor Brown has suggested."

Ban not enforced

One addicted gambler, who had himself banned from the casino, told ONE News he continued to visit and no-one at Sky City ever stopped him.

The gambler, "John", said he also gambled in Sky City's Hamilton casino while under the voluntary ban, sometimes for up to 10 hours.

Over 10 years he said he had lost around $100,000 and had never been approached by a member of staff about his problem.

"They make money out of us," he said.

John said he is taking responsibility for his addiction but people like him should be banned for life from the casino.

Sky City has refused to answer questions.

The Problem Gambling Foundation said the casino needs to detail exactly how it is dealing with the issue.

Your feedback

Comments on the ONE News Facebook page questioned how the casino counts problem gamblers.

Karl Nathan wrote: " do they collect this statistic? I assume it comes from those who actually admit they have a problem to a third party, who must report it to them?"

Julius Fa'afua posted that the statistics will only show the gamblers who have reported themselves to rehab agencies.

"The scary thing is that number is actually bigger than whats stated... what about the gamblers that haven't reported their addiction??...we have a problem in this country," he wrote.