A Waikato-based club with 18 gaming machines on site undertook a five day voluntary suspension during January 2016 as part of a negotiated outcome with the Department of Internal Affairs.
The suspension followed an investigation by the Department into how the Waitomo Club dealt with problem gambling.
The investigation followed a complaint to Internal Affairs about the club’s approach to problem gambling. The club was found to have not sufficiently addressed these issues and adhered to its harm minimisation policy.
The Department’s Gambling Compliance Manager, Stefan Pishief, says minimising harm from problem gambling is one of the gambling regulator’s key priorities.
“We recognise the challenges operators face in the harm minimisation area and we will work with those who are motivated to improve their standards,” Mr Pishief said. “However, the Department will take action where obligations have clearly not been met and there are risks of significant harm occurring.”
Although the Waitomo Club did not agree with all the Department’s concerns, the Club acknowledged that it could improve its procedures. Following initial consultation, the club re-trained their staff and key people in harm minimisation, updated the club’s harm minimisation policy and gambling material, and undertook self-audits in January and November 2015.
“The recent action undertaken by the Waitomo Club to lift its game in the area of harm minimisation has provided a safer gambling environment for club members,” Stefan said. “I welcome comments from the club that it is committed to best practice and committed to working closely with the Department.
“We encourage all clubs that offer gaming machines to have in place well-trained staff who are confident about being able to identify and interact with any member who is showing signs of harmful gambling.
“I urge clubs to put the welfare of their gambling members at the very top of their priorities.”
The club’s manager, Jim Riddell, said that the club is proud of its improved harm minimisation measures which he believes make them industry leaders.
“I consider that our members are the owners of our club. Their welfare is paramount to us,” he said.
Clubs New Zealand also supports the call for club operators with gaming machines to be vigilant in ensuring that all harm minimisation obligations are being met, and that good harm minimisation practices that go above legal requirements are applied. Chief Executive Larry Graham stated “We will continue to support clubs in this important area, as it is in the interests of all clubs and club members that the risks of problem gambling are minimised.”
The Department has worked with the Health Promotion Agency to produce an easily accessible check list about the signs of problem gambling, and a guide for venue staff about their gambling host responsibilities. The resources are currently being distributed to clubs. They can also be found on the Gamble Host Pack website.
Clubs can contact DIA’s Gambling Compliance team on 0800 257 887 for assistance.