GAMBLING

National Pacific Gambling Services Celebration

Monday 17 December 2007, 4:17PM
By Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban
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Gambling away money that our families need - money that could be spent on health and education, that could be invested in our children to give them the step up they need to get ahead, is not acceptable.

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Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia orana, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste, Ia Orana, Gud de tru olgeta, Talofa ni, Talofa, Kia ora tatou, and warm Pacific greetings to you all.

Thank you for your warm introduction and a heart felt thank you for inviting me to celebrate with you today.

A warm welcome to everyone here today, especially our Pacific families, unions and communities. I would particularly like to acknowledge:
* Len Brown, Mayor of Manukau and Su'a Williams Sio Deputy Mayor - it is great to see such high profile members of the community here today supporting this event;
* I would also like to thank National Pacific Gambling for they work they do with our Pacific community, and particularly Pefi Kingi and Muaautiofia Clarke for their hard work in organising today's event;
* I would also like to acknowledge NIU FM and 531 PI who are supporting today's celebration, and active in raising awareness of National Pacific Gambling Services message

I was honoured to receive an invitation from the organisers to speak today, as I recognise the important role National Pacific Gambling play in our community in their efforts to minimise the harm that gambling can lead to.

This event comes at an important time, with Christmas just around the corner. What a great way to celebrate - we have music, we have performances, we have competitions for the children and so much more. It is a fantastic opportunity for families to come together and enjoy the festive season.

But there is a serious message that goes along with today, and it is a message that we need to get out to our people about the harms of gambling.

I've been looking at the statistics that the Department of Internal Affairs publish on gambling in New Zealand, in particular for the Manukau area, where Pacific people make up almost 30 percent of the population, and it makes for disturbing reading. For example;

* People in New Zealand spent $1.9 billion dollars on gambling last year. $900 million dollars of this was spent on pokie machines, the kind you find down at the local pub.

* Here in Manukau, there are almost 1000 pokie machines distributed across the district.

* From April to September in Manukau alone, almost $40 million was spent on the pokies. $40 million in just 6 months.

That is a huge amount of money for the people of Manukau to be losing on the pokies.

This is money that could be spent on household expenses - on paying bills or buying food, on education or on healthcare. This is money that should be spent on keeping our children and family healthy and fit, but is instead being poured into these machines. And this is money that in many cases Pacific people cannot afford to lose.

Research by the Ministry of Health clearly shows that gambling exposure is not evenly distributed throughout the population in New Zealand.

Availability or exposure to gambling opportunities is in fact, much higher for people residing in the more relatively deprived areas of New Zealand, such as South Auckland for example.

People living in these areas are at increased risk of having gambling problems and Pacific people are generally over-represented in these locations.

Research also shows that of all population groups in New Zealand, Pacific peoples are the most at risk of developing gambling problems.

From two New Zealand gambling prevalence surveys carried out in 1991 and 1999, it has been estimated that Pacific peoples are at least six times more at risk of developing gambling problems than Europeans.

These same prevalence surveys estimated that 14 per cent of current probable problem gamblers were Pacific people, and these figures were supported in the more recent 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey.

And there are no signs that the problems that Pacific people are having controlling their gambling are reducing. In fact, in 2006, for the first time Pacific callers to the Gambling Helpline made up over ten percent of callers.

So what can we do to reduce the harm that gambling is causing to the Pacific community?

We as a community need to take responsibility for our actions, and put our families first. "Our Communities, Our Families, Our Problem" is the theme of today's event.

Sitting in front of a pokie machine for hours is not part of a healthy lifestyle - and it is not good for our families and our communities.

Gambling away money that our families need - money that could be spent on health and education, that could be invested in our children to give them the step up they need to get ahead, is not acceptable.

It is also important that we invest time with our families.

Our Labour-led government knows that New Zealand only succeeds when our Pacific families are strong and thriving - and we have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation of the contribution that Pacific peoples have made to New Zealand.

Our families are the backbone of our Pacific communities and it is vital that strengthening them is our number one priority.

This Christmas I want our community to think about how we are gambling, and how we can do it more responsibly. Let's invest our time and money in our families and friends and enjoy the good things that we each have to offer.

I wish you all a safe, enjoyable and gambling free Christmas and New Year.

Ia manuia lava. Soifua.