Calls for tougher gambling laws in NZ

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Pasifika peoples in New Zealand have an uneven level of gaming harm compared to the rest of the country, according to Gerhart Berking, the National Public Health Lead at Mapu Maia.

Christchurch City Council has renewed its ‘sink cap’ policy, in place since 2004, which prevents approval of new gambling licenses in pubs and clubs. Existing licenses also cannot be transferred to other locations, making Christchurch the city with the most pokie machines per capita. The current number is 3.3 per every 1,000 residents.

Phil Siataga, Mapu Maia’s Canterbury-based Counsellor, said gambling represents a hidden problem and “people slide into pathological harm”, especially now that Covid has put “more pressure on people financially because generally, socio-economically pacific people’s status is generally low.”

Siataga encouraged other councils to follow Christchurch’s example by adopting the policy to change gambling environments because many people live in areas saturated by pokie machines. “Pokies are the biggest problem that we see because by the time they get to us there is usually a lot of damage that’s been done.”

Siataga commented that Pasifika is twice as likely to suffer moderate to severe damage from the game as any other group. Currently, Pasifika peoples in New Zealand make up 21 percent of all people seeking treatment for gambling.

“Pacific are disproportionately affected by gambling than relative to the rest of NZ. We need stronger policies to change our gambling environments… higher-level advocacy”, said Siataga.

A trusted source for safer online casinos is, which reviews casinos with gambling limits, self-exclusions, and monthly spending limits.

About Mapu Maia

Established in 2009, Mapu Maia was set up to provide a culturally appropriate service to effectively reduce the problem gambling harms in the Pacific community. Since then, Mapu Maia’s service has evolved and expanded to include public health and screening trainings for community groups and delivering psychoeducation and therapeutic programmes on addictive behaviours and wellbeing in prisons and community centers around New Zealand. They are committed to providing effective and relevant public health and counseling services to Pacific people in the community.