Minimising gambling harm

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(Updated: March 2024)

This page is about how the Department minimises gambling harm in non-casino environments. For more information about casino gambling, see our casino pages

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Updated Legislation to Minimise Gambling Harm

The Government has announced new regulations the Gambling Harm Prevention and Minimisation Amendment Regulations 2023 (Legislation website) to strengthen gambling harm minimisation in class 4 venues.

For more information, see Reducing Pokies Harm.

About gambling harm

A key purpose of the Gambling Act is to prevent and minimise the harm caused by gambling.

What is gambling harm?

Harmful gambling is gambling that causes or may cause harm to an individual, his or her family, or the wider community. All gambling can cause harm.

What are the effects of gambling harm?

The harmful effects of gambling can include:

  • Financial problems
  • Problems at work (ranging from poor performance to fraud)
  • Poor parenting and other relationship problems
  • Family violence
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Mental health problems
  • Suicide

This list is not exhaustive, gambling can cause issues across different areas of people’s lives.

How many people are affected by gambling harm in Aotearoa/New Zealand?

Every two years, New Zealanders are surveyed to find out what kinds of gambling they take part in, and the rates of harm for each kind of gambling. This includes everything from buying a Lotto ticket, to online gambling, TAB, casino gambling and pokies. This is called the Health and Lifestyle Survey.

The 2020 Health and lifestyle survey shows that of those who gamble on all forms of gambling, 1.6% are reported as moderate risk and problem gamblers, and 2.9% are reported as low risk gamblers.

If you want to find out more, see Kupe - Data Explorer (

Pokies gambling

Pokies gambling occurs in pubs and clubs, some TAB venues, and casinos.

There are a range of measures to limit gambling harm from pokies in the Gambling Act 2003 (the Act) and its regulations.

The Gambling (Harm Prevention and Minimisation) Regulations 2004  (the Harm Minimisation Regulations) for gambling were strengthened in 2023. The Regulations focus on measures to identify and respond to harm from pokies gambling at pubs, clubs, TABs, and casinos.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has published guidance to help pokies operators at pubs, clubs and TAB’s comply with their obligations under the Regulations.

What’s the level of harm from pokies gambling?

Pokies, also known as electronic gaming machines, are one of the most harmful forms of gambling. They are the leading reason that people seek gambling-related help in Aotearoa.

The 2020 Health and Lifestyles survey shows that rates of harm from pokies gambling are higher than those experienced from other forms of gambling. One in five (20%) of people who play pokies are classed as low risk, moderate risk or problem gamblers.

The likelihood of harm is higher for those who play pokies more frequently. Research shows 50.3% of those who played EGMs in pubs or clubs at least once a month experienced some level of gambling harm.

If you want to find out more, see Kupe - Data Explorer (

Measures to reduce harm from casino gambling

Harm minimisation measures for casino gambling are detailed in host responsibility programmes (HRPs), which are a licence condition for casinos.

Casino gambling includes pokies along with other kinds of gambling. The Gambling Act and the Harm Minimisation Regulations contain measures to limit gambling harm from pokies and other gambling at casinos. These are similar to many of those applying at class 4 pokies venues. There are also some differences because casinos have host responsibility programmes that deal with many of the issues addressed in the Regulations.

For more on casino gambling, see our casino pages.

Measures to limit pokies harm in TABs, clubs and pubs

There are a range of ways to prevent or minimise harm from pokies gambling at pubs, clubs and TABs. These are set out in the Act and the Regulations, are administered by DIA. They include:


 All class 4 operators must be licenced by DIA, and these licences must be renewed every year.

  • Before issuing a licence, DIA must be satisfied that the applicant will minimise the risks of problem gambling and the possibility of underage gambling.
  • Class 4 licence holders must have a harm minimisation policy (HMP), which includes a policy for identifying problem gamblers, and contains a statement about how harm will be minimised at the class 4 venue. These documents must be approved by the Department as part of licencing.

Enforcement activities

  • DIA conducts venue inspections and audits of class 4 operators and venues to check whether they are meeting their obligations, including their harm minimisation obligations.
  • A range of penalties can result if operators are found to be in breach of their obligations, including infringement offences. For more, refer to our Compliance-and-Enforcement-Policy.pdf ( (PDF, 483KB)

Suitable venues and venue design/layout

  • There are restrictions on the kinds of venues that can host pokies machines.
  • No automatic teller machines (ATMs) are permitted in gambling areas of venues.
  • ATMs outside of gambling areas must be in line of sight from staff working at the main bar or customer service area.
  • Pokie machines must not be visible from outside the venue (if the venue has a specified gambling area).

Machine features

  • Pokie machines have several mandatory machine features, such as maximum stake and prize limits.

Advertising restrictions

  • Jackpot advertising must not be visible or audible from outside the venue.
  • The word “jackpot” or similar wording or branding must not be published in a way that gives the impression there is a gaming machine jackpot at the venue.


  • Managers and staff who supervise gambling in their day-to-day duties at the venue must be trained in problem gambling awareness before they start “supervising gambling”.
  • “Supervising gambling” is supervising people while they are gambling on the machines, and people at the venue whose actions are showing an intention to start gambling.
  • This training must occur at least once per year.
  • Venues with pokies must always have a harm minimisation trained person on site while gambling is available.
  • A person who is trained should be able to identify signs of problem gambling and know how to approach a person who is experiencing harm and offer assistance.
  • To see what must be covered in training, see our Gambling Harm Prevention and Minimisation guidance (PDF, 471KB)

Information and signage

  • Pamphlets must be available at the venue to give information to players whose gambling may be causing harm.  
  • Signage must be displayed at the venue that is clearly visible to all players.

This information and signage informs players about the hazards of gambling, encourages players not to spend more than they can afford and sets out information on how to seek assistance for gambling problems.

The Health Promotion Directorate provides posters and leaflets in multiple languages to help meet these requirements. They can also be printed from Resources | Gamble Host

Signs of pokies gambling harm

The signs of pokies harm include (but are not limited to):

  • withdrawing or attempting to withdraw cash from an automatic teller machine (“ATM”) or EFTPOS device on two or more occasions in one day to use for gambling at the venue
  • gambling during 9 or more consecutive gambling area sweeps
  • attempting to borrow money from staff or other venue customers to use for gambling
  • leaving children in a car or otherwise unattended at the venue
  • waiting to gamble as soon as the venue opens
  • refusing to stop gambling at the venue when the venue is closing, or otherwise appearing unable to stop gambling
  • appearing visibly distressed or angry either during or after gambling (for example crying, holding their head in their hands, or hitting a machine)

There are also a number of other recognised signs of gambling harm which venue staff should be monitoring for – refer to Resources | Gamble Host

Excluding or banning someone from pokies

If someone’s gambling may be causing harm to themselves or others, banning or excluding someone from being able to gamble at one or more venues is an important option available to prevent further harm occurring. All pokies venues must have these procedures in place:

  • Self-exclusion: someone can choose to exclude themselves from either one or several venues. The venue manager must issue a self-exclusion promptly if requested, if certain conditions are met.
  • Multi-venue exclusion: When someone decides to exclude themselves from several venues at once, this is called a multi-venue exclusion (MVE). In most parts of the country, there is a service to help a person do this easily. Your local gambling support service will be able to advise if there is a MVE programme operating in your area and who the coordinator is. See  Resources | Gamble Host (Gamble host website)
  • Venue manager exclusion: Venue managers may decide to exclude a person if they believe their gambling may be causing harm.

Pokies societies and venues must set out their exclusion procedures in their harm minimisation policies. Refer to Exclusion Order (Problem Gamblers) Guidelines – for more information.

Venue practices and identifying signs of harm

Venue managers have legal responsibilities to ensure that procedures are in place to identify and respond to people showing signs of harm at venues, and that these procedures are always being followed by venue staff.


Venue staff must actively monitor gambling areas on a regular basis to observe player behaviour and to look for any signs that a player’s gambling may be causing harm. Gambling areas are wherever the gaming machines are located. This is called a “sweep”.

  • Sweeps of gambling rooms must be conducted at least 3 times per hour and at least 10 minutes apart.
  • Staff must keep track of how long individual players have been gambling. Gambling for 9 sweeps in a row (about 3 hours) is a sign that harm is or may be occurring.
  • Venue staff must have a conversation with a player if a sign of harm is identified. Staff must make records of all these conversations.
  • Venue staff must take appropriate action and provide assistance where harm is or may be occurring.
  • Venue staff and managers must follow up if the player continues to show signs of harm, see section 309A of the Act (link to Legislation website).


Venues must keep specific records under the Regulations:

  • records of all sweeps
  • records of all signs identified
  • a summary of conversations between venue staff and players, and the outcomes of those conversations, including interventions.

Weekly review by venue manager

At least once a week, venue managers must review all the sweep records, and records of conversations with players for the previous 7 days. This review is to check that all procedures have been followed and to decide whether any further action is needed for any player identified as showing a sign of harm.

Venue operators must keep all gambling records for 3 years.

Infringement offences

There are a range of infringement offences and other penalties for breaching the Harm Minimisation Regulations and the Gambling Act, including $1,000 infringement fees for:

  • failure of venue manager to ensure that venue personnel undertake gambling area sweeps
  • failure of venue manager to ensure that venue personnel have conversations with players who have exhibited 1 or more signs of harm
  • failure of venue manager to ensure that venue personnel record required information in relation to gambling area sweeps

For a full list of offences, see our Gambling Harm Prevention and Minimisation guidance, Appendix 3.

Harm minimisation resources for venues

The Health Promotion Directorate, in partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs, has developed a set of resources to support class 4 venue managers and staff meet their harm minimisation obligations. It also provides training resources for use by class 4 societies, pubs and clubs. Visit Resources | Gamble Host to download the resources.

This website also contains a range of other helpful information about gambling harm: Minimising gambling harm with manaaki and alofa | Safer Gambling Aotearoa

Resources/help services for gamblers

If you think you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, you can call the Gambling Helpline free, day or night from anywhere in Aotearoa/New Zealand on 0800 654 655 or text on 8006: Gambling Helpline

It offers four specialist services: Māori Gambling Helpline, Pasifika Gambling Helpline, Debt Gambling Helpline and Youth Gambling Helpline.

For more information on the help available, visit Help & support | Get Help with Your Gambling | Safer Gambling NZ