The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Gambling venues need to do more

28 June 2017

Gambling venues are doing better at helping problem gamblers but need to do much more, according to Internal Affairs’ Director of Gambling Compliance, Gareth Bostock.

The Department conducted another mystery shopper exercise late last year to assess how well venue staff were fulfilling their Gambling Act obligations for preventing and minimising gambling harm. The first exercise was in 2014.

Trained researchers, displaying signs of harmful gambling, tested staff responses at 120 pokie bars and clubs and all six casinos. Indications of gambling harm include long hours of play, multiple cash withdrawals to play the pokies, verbal and non-verbal clues and third-party concerns. Staff would be expected to check in with such gamblers and advise on how they can get help or exclude themselves from gambling venues.

“We set some high standards for this exercise, expecting staff to demonstrate that they care for their gambling customers.” Gareth Bostock said.

“Few operators in the class 4 gambling sector met all expectations, but many more met partial expectations. So we are seeing improvements, particularly around how operators want to help venues to care for their customers.

“There were improvements in casinos, but some more is required here too. The three casino companies in New Zealand have put considerable focus on harm minimisation practice since 2014 and we have noted a significant change in culture with a stronger focus on minimising harmful gambling.

“SkyCity in particular did well and is to be congratulated. The four SkyCity casinos made significant improvements, not only to systems and processes but also to culture and staff attitude towards helping those who display signs of harmful gambling.”

Preliminary results from the Ministry of Health’s 2016 Health and Lifestyle survey indicate no increase in the overall prevalence of problem gambling from 2014 to 2016.

The Department is using its latest mystery shopper research to target its regulatory activity and help the sector lift performance. It will tackle poor performing operators in particular through education and training in partnership with the Health Promotion Agency; inspect venues for harm minimisation practices; use sanctions where appropriate.

“Where we identify poor performance we will work with societies on appropriate action,” Mr Bostock said. “The licence for an individual venue will still be open to cancellation.

“We are working with the sector to change the culture in venues, particularly in pubs and clubs (class 4 gambling).

“We expect bars to care as much about their gambling customers as they do their drinking customers.”

The report on the 2016 Mystery Shopper exercise is available on the Department’s website:

Media contact:

Trevor Henry, Senior Communications Adviser, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 7211; cell 021 245 8642