Gambling, like a lot of adult past times, can be harmless entertainment. In fact, the vast majority of casual gamblers get a lot of pleasure and enjoyment from playing casino games, the lotto, poker and other forms of gambling.
Although, it has to be pointed out, that the game of poker differs slightly from your run-of-the-mill casino games. Firstly, players are pitted against each other, as opposed to playing against the “house”. Secondly, there is a high degree of skill that can influence the outcome of a hand. In other words, a more experienced and skilful player can sometimes outplay a weaker opponent – even if that weak opponent has the best hand.
With that said, let's start by defining what the New Zealand government's definition of a “problem gambler”:
New Zealand’s Gambling Act 2021 defines a problem gambler as a person whose gambling causes harm or may cause harm. Harm is also defined in the Act but in very broad terms.
In reality, a problem gambler is one who causes harm to themselves or others because of their excessive gambling. For some, that threshold is higher than others and the word “excess” is very subjective.
How to Recognise You have a Problem
Recognising the signs of a problem gambler can be tricky because every individual has a tipping point that differs. However, there are some basic signs to look out for:
- You feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. If you pretend you don't gamble – or try to minimise the amount of time spent gambling - choosing instead to indulge in secret, you could have a problem.
- You have trouble controlling yourself when you are gambling. If you are the sort of person who can't stop once you've started, you have to take a step back. Chasing lost money until there's none left to play with is a big warning sign.
- If you gamble even when you don’t have the money, you could be in trouble. This is especially true if you end up delving into your normal living expenses to recoup the money you may have lost playing. Other red flags are borrowing, stealing and not paying your bills, instead using that money to gamble. Sadly, this sort of behaviour ends up being like a merry-go-round you cannot get off. It just puts you further into a hole that you may not be able to dig yourself out of.
- Denial is a massive sign that your gambling habits are going down the wrong path. If your family and friends are worried about you, it's time to take note. Truthfully consider how much gambling is affecting your life, and get the help you need.
If you think you have a problem with gambling, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Many online gambling sites and casinos offer problem gamblers the option of a Self Exclusion Order. For New Zealanders, this option allows you to ask a gambling venue to exclude you from playing in their casino, both live or online, for a period of up to two years.
A less extreme measure, that's also available to players who may have issues when it comes to gambling, is to implement a Self-Limit. This process prevents you from depositing more than a certain amount over a fixed period. Most online poker and casino rooms have some form of Self-Limit policy.
If you feel that the above options just won't be able to curtail your gambling problem, there are many places in New Zealand to get help:
Gambling Helpline Services – open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
0800 654 655
Or text to 8006
Māori Gambling Helpline
0800 654 656
Vai Lelei Pasifika Gambling Helpline
0800 654 657
Gambling Debt Helpline
0800 654 658
Youth Gambling Helpline
0800 654 659
Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (Public Health and Intervention Services)
0800 664 262
Woodlands Trust (Intervention Services)
0800 333 122
Need help, right now? Call 0800 654 655