In late 2016, the Department of Internal Affairs (the Department) conducted a mystery shopper exercise to assess current host responsibility practice in class 4 venues (pubs and clubs) and casinos in relation to electronic gaming machines, or “pokies”.
The purpose of the exercise was to provide a snapshot of how well venue staff identified and responded to signs of harmful gambling. It also highlights opportunities where further support can be provided by industry operators and the Department to better protect gamblers and build stronger communities.
Scenarios were developed to assess how venue staff responded to a variety of gambling harm behaviours. They were developed using a range of information that included input from gambling operators about how they expected their staff to perform. The scenarios varied in duration and exhibited a range of strong and general signs of gambling harm. Each selected establishment was visited by a mystery shopper who acted out a specific scenario.
The Department assessed the country’s six casinos and a random selection of 120 of the 1221 class 4 venues. Results can be found on the Department's website.
Since a previous mystery shop exercise in 2014 class 4 venues and casinos have put considerable effort into harm minimisation practice. The Department has noted a significant change in attitude towards the issue of gamble host responsibility in this time.
The four SKYCITY casinos have made significant improvements. They have made positive changes, not only to systems and processes but also to culture and staff attitude towards helping those who display signs of harmful gambling.
Christchurch and Dunedin casinos have also made progress, but the results indicate more can be done to lift their performance.
Class 4 sector
For the class 4 sector the scenarios in this exercise were based on our clear expectations and best practice guidelines outlined in the Gamble Host Pack. These resources were distributed in December 2015 and presented our expectations in a new way, designed specifically for use by venues.
The standards we assessed against were high, and to meet the expectations venues had to achieve all criteria. Given this, the number of venues meeting all the expectations was low (eight per cent). Many more venues partially met the expectations (33 per cent). This suggests progress can be made by the sector to further improve harm prevention and minimisation in venues.
In general, class 4 venues were better at identifying and responding to strong signs of gambling harm than they were at recognising a combination of general signs.
Follow up action
The Department will use the results of this mystery shopper exercise as a key piece of information to target high risk venues.
Inspections of high risk venues will lead to sanction action if outstanding issues are not rectified within a certain timeframe.
We expect the sector to use the results to continue to improve gamble host responsibility. The Department will continue to work with the sector to improve performance and will use the results to identify where more education and extra regulatory focus is needed.
The results will be used by us as a baseline to assess future improvements.
For further information on the mystery shopper exercise please contact Sector.Initiatives@dia.govt.nz