Over 70 pubs and clubs in New Zealand will be "pausing their pokies" for an hour next month to raise awareness of gambling addiction.
Venues from Bluff to Kaitaia will stop the use of gambling machines for an hour during Gambling Harm Awareness Week which runs from 3-9 September.
The 'Pause the Pokies' initiative is being coordinated by the Problem Gambling Foundation, Mapu Maia (Pacific Counselling Service), Asian Family Services, and several community partners around New Zealand.
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"It is great to be able to work with venues and community partners to raise awareness about harmful gambling, particularly pokies," says Problem Gambling Foundation communications director Andree Froude.
Posters promoting the awareness week have been delivered to participating venues, Pause the Pokies said in a Facebook post. The Angus Inn, in Wellington's Lower Hutt, will be pausing pokies during the September week.
The theme of the awareness week this year, says Ms Froude, is to "take time out from gambling, put time into whanau" so gamblers will be encouraged to take a break from their gambling and connect with their family.
"The awareness week starts with 15 of the 17 venues in Invercargill pausing their pokies in the morning and there are some venues participating that are pausing their pokies every day for an hour during that week," Ms Froude says.
The latest New Zealand National Gambling Study, one of only two gambling studies in the world that has followed and assessed a large national sample over time, says although participation in gambling has fallen, rates of problem gambling have not reduced and gambling continues to impact heavily on Māori and Pacific peoples.
"We are hoping that pausing the pokies will also allow gamblers to think about their gambling and it may lead to people seeking help from a local service if they are experiencing harm or know someone that is," says Ms Froude.
"There are five times as many pokie machines in the most deprived areas as the least deprived areas, so gambling continues to impact heavily on vulnerable communities."
If you're concerned about your own, or someone else's gambling, help is available and it's free and confidential. Phone 0800 664 262 or visit www.pgf.nz