Tairāwhiti Casino Counselling Services Halted

Elouise Spencer - 25 February 2020

A member of New Zealand’s Tairāwhiti district health board is tackling the lack of government-funded services for casino players who need responsible gaming support. Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Meredith Akuhata-Brown said that problem players in the area have not had access to free support services since September 2018.

Akuhata-Brown explained that the Ministry of Health and the former service provider Te Ara Tika Trust mutually agreed to end their contract at that time. Since then, finding a permanent solution has proven difficult. The only people who have received counselling services since the previous service stopped operating were those who also received alcohol and drug addiction counselling from the board.

No Suitable Candidates

According to reports, Hauora Tairāwhiti planning and funding manager Nicola Ehau, the district health board accepted a two-year contract to run such a service last year. This followed intervention by the Ministry of Health.

The ministry requested the board to assist with the creation of a new problem gaming support service in Tairāwhiti. The contract began on 1 August 2019, and the casino support service was to start operating in November. It eventually was to be handed over to a provider from the community. However, even though jobs for the service were advertised several times, the board could not find any candidates who were suitable for the positions.

Temporary Solution Suggested

While the board continues to try get its gambling addiction service going, the ministry is considering a temporary solution to the situation. Akuhata-Brown told reporters that she will speak about the issue at a Hauora Tairāwhiti board meeting in February.

The board member said that she would find out whether another organisation in the region could be given the temporary contract so that a dedicated service could be provided. It would allow casino players to receive crucial support while the board reviewed positions to find ways to attract suitable candidates.

Gisborne Also Needs Counselling Service

Nati4Life Trust manager, Tuta Ngarimu said that Gisborne was also in need of a government-funded counselling service that focuses on responsible gambling and the treatment of addiction. The trust’s focus is on suicide awareness and prevention, but for Ngarimu, problem gaming and suicide can be linked.

The manager said that they knew of someone who lost their family, car, and home to problem gaming; something that ultimately led to that person’s suicide. Ngarimu added that locals spent millions of dollars on casino games in the district, which was further evidence that a responsible gaming service is needed.