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Pasifika health provider welcomes funding to curb gambling harm

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Akarere Henry, chief executive of South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services, welcomes the government’s investment in minimising gambling harm. Photo: Pasifika Medical Association Group.
Aden Miles Morunga | Local Democracy Reporter

A Waikato Pasifika health provider says government funding to curb gambling harm will benefit the Pacific community.

The strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm will be launched this week by Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti.

Akarere Henry, chief executive of South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services (SWPICS), says her community will gain from the additional layers of support.

“Given the per capita spend that we have currently, it would benefit our community to have these layers of support for those who have gambling issues,” she said.

The investment from the Government tops $76 million and includes training pathways to enable a more skilled and diverse workforce, including more peer and cultural support workers.

The money will also go towards new and expanded digital services and supports, education initiatives to reduce harm to rangatahi (young people), a de-stigmatisation initiative to help change the conversation around gambling harm, and better support for vulnerable communities including Māori, Pacific, and Asian people.

Akarere says her community is asking for help every week, with her team fielding referrals to K’aute Pasifika in Hamilton.

“We have a service available through our sister organisation – K’aute Pasifika, of which we make referrals to them, whereupon they will travel here to have those sessions and provide support as appropriate.”
Referrals vary but SWPICS fields around two every week.

The true extent of gambling harm in South Waikato was revealed earlier this year with $8 million lost on pokies between 2020 and 2021. Photo: Problem Gambling Foundation.

“We would provide budgeting support and immediate assistance for instance with kai packs.The referral looks at more embedded behaviour around the choices being made.”

The “devastating” impact gambling harm is having on the South Waikato came to light earlier this year when it was revealed the district lost $8,057,439 on class 4 pokies in the 2020-21 financial year, across 160 pokie machines in the region.

The revelation came after members of the community gave feedback to South Waikato District Council on its Gambling Class 4 and TAB Venue Policy (Gambling Policy).

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti says regulation of gambling means professionals can deal with harms including financial problems, relationship problems, family violence, and alcohol abuse.

“The Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm was developed following public consultation in late 2021 and will ensure that services are co-designed with people with lived experience of gambling harm, service providers, community groups and industry bodies,” Tinetti says.

Meanwhile, Problem Gambling Foundation’s Andree Froude believes the strategy recognises that more needs to be done to prevent and minimise harm from gambling, particularly for Māori, Pacific and Asian communities, who are “disproportionately impacted”.

“It is good to see rangatahi being another area of focus in the strategy, which wasn’t in the last strategy. With the growth of online gambling and the very grey area between gaming and gambling, this is an important part of any response to address harmful gambling in this country.”

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