Since the arrival of gaming machines or “pokies” as they are commonly known here, it has undoubtedly created social problems for many families. Stories of the husband (or the wife) heading to a club to gamble has been widespread and despite public awareness on the dangers of gambling, pokies remains a problem for many.
The National Gaming Board which administers gaming machine licenses has conducted public awareness on this issue on television, newspapers and even in front of the machine itself. Whether this is enough remains to be seen because there isn’t much statistics on how much of these awareness has brought positive social results.
But on a visit we conducted around many of the clubs in Port Moresby it is pleasing to see that the once crowded pokies areas aren’t as crowded as they used to be. On the other hand, it is possible that we conducted our investigation at times when the crowds are less.
Even the kind of people that gather around the machines are of a much higher income earning category and this might be attributed to the minimum bet regulation which was upped from the initial K20 to the current amount of K100.
The National Gaming Board receives millions of Kina in this industry and in return they do contribute a significant amount of that to social and sporting activities as sponsors. The recent Pacific Games is a clear example.
But what we wanted to find out, and if anyone at the National Gaming Board is reading this, is whether the Board has put money into a counselling program or offered counselling services for free. By offering such a service, this would be a significant contribution to society and certainly a much more direct benefit to society.
It would also be interesting to see what statistics are publically available in terms of the number of regular users, how much on average a person spends on gambling from their pay packet and so on. Such information would be critical analysing how much of a problem gambling really is in PNG and what solutions are there or should be made available to overcome such problems.
Gambling is undoubtedly a very serious problem to many and the fact that living standards haven’t really improved since pokies was introduced, Papua New Guineans have become more vulnerable.
If you know any firm that provides gambling counselling services, we would like to know.