NZ government gears up for a new funded study of gambling

New Zealand is gearing up for a comprehensive and government funded study of gambling that will look at whether casinos and the TAB - and other parts of the sector - target specific cultures, along with issues such as gambling behaviour, problem gambling and the manner in which gambling is marketed.

The Ministry of Health has budgeted nearly NZ$700 000 for the research into how to prevent and address gambling harm, according to proposals published on the Government's electronic tenders website this week.

Four projects are investigating impact characteristics of venues, games and marketing on gambling behaviour and the reduction of harmful gambling, including whether players on electronic games can be reined in with warning pop-up panels.

The NZ$220 000 allocated to the marketing study will look at the impact of marketing, advertising and sponsorship on gambling perceptions and behaviour. Internal impacts include the use of culturally-specific imagery in venues, and in the wider community, they include sponsorship of community events.

In earlier research in 2006, the ministry noted that while casinos were not seen as creating harm on the whole, for certain groups, such as Asian gamblers, they did cause significant harm. Overseas experience had shown that Asian gamblers of different cultural backgrounds could be affected by the way gambling was marketed and presented.

Separately, the ministry has budgeted another NZ$96 000 to find out how game characteristics such as pay-offs, play speed, near-miss features and jackpots influence gambling.

The ministry is calling for researchers to register interest in the studies, which include questions developed with the Department of Internal Affairs and representatives of the gambling industry.

Questions it has proposed include the effect of advertising, sponsorship and promotion of gambling on public views and attitudes, and whether the marketing of large lottery jackpots encouraged people to spend more on lotteries than they usually did.

The ministry wants to know whether use of terms such as "jackpot", "bonus", and "must be won" changed gamblers' perceptions of the likelihood of winning, and how many people spent more than they could afford on trying to win big jackpots.

Up to NZ$240 000 will be spent studying the potential for pop-ups to constrain use of electronic gambling machines.

Successful tenders for the work are expected to be identified in October 2009, with the deadline for delivery of the research to be in June 2013.

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