A spring celebration of the community will be part of efforts to tackle problem gambling over the next month.
Gamblefree Day will be marked on 1 September, with events nationwide around the date and on into September, encouraging communities and helping raise awareness.
As part of the awareness efforts, public health worker Stephanie St George, of Salvation Army Addiction Services—Problem Gambling, said staff would be joining the annual Greerton Village Cherry Blossom Festival in Tauranga on 26 September.
Although it was later in the month, the festival, held in the first week of school holidays, was a great opportunity to mix with the community and share a proactive community message, Stephanie said. ‘It’s about getting the message out there in a positive way that celebrates community connectedness and social inclusion, which we know helps prevent all sorts of social harm, including gambling harm.’
The festival will include a display of 120 classic cars, market stalls, street performances and live entertainment along with fairground rides, meaning there would be something for the whole whānau.
Salvation Army staff will join with Problem Gambling Foundation staff to offer quizzes, screen people for gambling harm and give them the chance to win prizes, as well as giving out information.
Gambling was a significant issue in Tauranga, Stephanie said, with $14 million already spent in gaming machines in the first six months this year. For the year to June last year, 236 people in the area asked for help with gambling problems, but for each person the effects of their addiction usually caused harm to between five and 10 other people.
Many people didn’t think of gambling as an addiction like drug or alcohol addiction and many also didn’t know where to go for help, which was why it was so important to get the message out through events like the fair, Stephanie said. ‘As a public health worker I’m out in the community engaging with people a lot, but it’s often in response to a concern, whereas this is more of a positive way to get our faces out there.’
Joining with the Problem Gambling Foundation was a positive way to carry on a good relationship, Stephanie said. ‘Problem Gambling Foundation and [the Army] are the only dedicated gambling service providers in Tauranga and we both work together, so we thought we’d approach them and ask if we could team up. We are committed to working together effectively to get the best outcomes for the people who need our services.’
Go to www.salvationarmy.org.nz/GamblefreeDay for details of Salvation Army activities around New Zealand.