Kaitaia based GP, and former New Zealander of the Year, Dr. Lance O’Sullivan, has raised concerns about gambling harm experienced within Northland communities and is calling on the government to take action.
Speaking at the International Gambling Conference earlier this year, Dr. O’Sullivan identified that the harm related to problem gambling extends beyond the individual, and is visible in his clinic on a daily basis. Whilst patients are lined up to be treated for physical illnesses such as respiratory or skin infections, Dr. O’Sullivan is well aware that the root causes of these issues are much more than the superficial ailment they are suffering from.
Dr. O’Sullivan wants to see a ban on Class 4 Gambling (Pokie Machines), recognising that gambling harm extends beyond the person with the addiction, with one in 5 New Zealanders being impacted by the gambling addiction of a family member. "We're paying for the kids who aren't going to succeed at school because they're hungry and they're sick. We as a society are paying for that" says Dr. O'Sullivan. Gambling harm is reflected in poverty statistics, housing inequalities and mental health, with Māori being disproportionately affected by gambling harm.
Current policies are disproportionately impacting on our high needs communities, with more than $3.5 million being spent by members of the community on Class 4 gambling in the Northland District in the last year alone.
Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Lance Norman applauds local councils that are stepping up to the plate on these issues, as an example, Dunedin City Council, who, this week announced that they unanimously support a sinking lid policy for gambling venues.
Mr Norman supports the call to address gambling harm in our communities through the removal of Pokie Machines, especially those saturated in high needs communities, and states "we will continue to engage with and support the problem gambling workforce, communities, iwi, hapū, whānau and consumers who are most effected by gambling harm. The cost of gambling harm is not just to the individual, but extends to the family, community and burdens our health system; it is therefore a cost to the taxpayer."