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27 September 2016

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Gambits article – Mystery Shopper exercise

The Department is undertaking its second Mystery Shopper exercise to assess how venue staff identify and respond to the signs of gambling harm. The exercise is taking place in all six casinos and 10 percent of class 4 venues, including clubs.

Mystery shoppers will act out signs of gambling harm in various scenarios.  The shoppers are seeking information about how venue staff identify and engage with them, based on the behaviours they present.

The exercise will help us and the sector identify where good practice is taking place and where improvements need to be made around gambling host responsibilities to prevent and minimise gambling harm.

The exercise is focused on reviewing class 4 venue and casino practice. Findings will be not used for enforcement purposes.
We are not divulging the exact nature of the scenarios or the timing of the exercise in order to maintain the integrity of the assessment.

However, we can tell you that the scenarios for the class 4 sector are based on the best practice guidance identified in the Gambling Host Responsibility resources (developed by the Health Promotion Agency in collaboration with Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health), which distinguish between “strong” and “general” signs of gambling harm.

We also invited input and advice from each society on the interactions and interventions they would expect from their venue staff when shown signs of gambling harm. We have used this detail to help build a pool of scenarios for the mystery shoppers to enact.

Engagement with societies was critical to our building credible and realistic scenarios. Consequently, we have paid particular attention to sector feedback around the length and frequency of play and the amount of money involved in cash withdrawals in scenarios.

Problem gambling service providers have also provided input to ensure the mystery shoppers are able to exhibit realistic behaviours for those whose gambling has become an issue.

In developing casino scenarios, the Department engaged with all three casino operators to gather input and advice on best practice when observing signs of gambling harm in casinos. This information helped us to develop a pool of casino scenarios. The Gambling Commission was also consulted because of its role in approving casino host responsibility programmes.

The scenarios draw on the problem gambling identification policies of each casino.

We will share the mystery shopper exercise results with the sector after its completion, discuss what the results show and what the next steps should be.

We acknowledge that many of you have put a lot of effort in to harm minimisation practices since the last mystery shopper in 2014.  Societies and Clubs NZ have reviewed and refreshed their training packages and some have developed new venue based resources such as Pub Charities’ ‘OK to Play’ campaign.

The Gamble Host packs, developed by the Health Promotion Agency, Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health have supported these developments.

Casinos, particularly SKYCITY Auckland and Christchurch have also made changes to their culture and work practices regarding harm minimisation.

Our goal is to see the sector succeed and do well in this exercise. We will work with the sector on any areas that need improvement.

We would like to thank those involved in contributing to the development of the scenarios, the knowledge shared continues to foster collaboration and partnership with and across the gambling sector.