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Problem gambling funding cut a disaster for Pasifika communities - Labour

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Latest Political News | Saturday March 22 2014 6:24

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UPDATED 10:38am: The cut to funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation will be a disaster for Pasifika communities, according to Labour.

Pacific Islanders are New Zealand's biggest spenders on pokie machines by a considerable margin.

Over the past five years the Foundation's Pasifika unit, Mapu Maia, has worked with 12,000 families, but the Ministry of Health is switching providers.

Labour's Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su'a William Sio says staff who have worked on the programme are gutted.

"They're not so much gutted for themselves, they're really gutted for what will happen to the communities and the people that they've been working with, and just the networks that they've created in the last five years."

Mr Sio says the closure will be disastrous for Pasifika communities.

He says an average Pasifika person spends more than $13,000 a year on gambling.

"And so it will be disastrous for Pasifika communities, because they're the ones who have been providing that strong voice, providing a service to those people that have a problem with it."

Mr Sio says for some families, gambling is a normal part of trying to make ends meet.

It's also feared Problem Gambling Foundation clients will be unlikely to just transfer across to a new help service.

The Salvation Army is in talks with the Ministry of Health to take on the work, after the Foundation was told its contract won't be renewed.

The Ministry says it will get more bang for its buck by switching providers.

But Canterbury University Associate Professor Ekant Veer says gambling is already handled as almost a non-issue amongst social problems.

"This make sit much harder for people who are problem gamblers, or suffer from problem gambling in their family, to try and break out of this cycle.

"Because they're surrounded by this normalised culture of 'It's ok to do this, so why would you call it a problem?'"

Associate Professor Veer says Problem Gambling Foundation clients have gone through getting past this, seeking help and building trust with a support group, so they are unlikely to simply transfer to a new provider.

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