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The Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGF) is a national non-profit organisation in New Zealand predominantly funded by the Ministry of Health with funds received from the gambling levy.

PGF is the largest single treatment provider for problem gambling in Australasia with over 60 locations throughout New Zealand and a staff of 70. Qualified counsellors provide free, professional and confidential counselling services for both gamblers and others affected by gambling and a dedicated Public Health team works on problem gambling issues in the community using a health promotion approach.

PGF's Asian Family Services provide professional counselling and advice in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer and Thai.

The PGF began as the Compulsive Gambling Society (CGS) in 1988 with funding from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board. The psychiatrist Fraser McDonald helped three men who were experiencing problems with gambling establish the CGS because at that time there were no services available to work with gambling problems. CGS started out as a telephone service with the first national hotline of its type internationally commencing operations in 1992. As the need grew, services expanded to include face-to-face services and a second clinic was opened in Manurewa in 1993.

In 2001 The PGF succeeded the CGS, moving away from an addictions and medical-based philosophy to a public health approach.

PGF mission statement

PGF's mission statement is to eliminate harm caused by gambling by providing counselling and support throughout New Zealand for individuals and families/whanau.

PGF states that they are committed to health promotion that contributes to more responsible gambling through community education and the development of regulations and standards. Counselling is free of charge to the gambler, their family and others affected by problem gambling.

PGF believes in:

Informing Change: the Research Director works in collaboration with leading researchers from tertiary institutions to ensure the best quality of evidence-based information, which informs training to the PGF clinicians and others in the problem gambling sector. As a service leader PGF undertakes research and develops resources for PGF and other problem gambling services.

Changing Lives: PGF provides specialist problem gambling counselling and group therapy throughout NZ. The PGF's Asian service team also provides counselling in six Asian languages.

Changing Communities: PGF's Public Health team is the first dedicated team to work on problem gambling issues using a health promotion approach. Its Asian service team works holistically with Asian communities to strengthen their resilience to problem gambling.

Changing Environments: PGF's advocacy services seek to create a safer environment for recreational gambling. It is active in developing national and local gambling policies. Its public health team works with territorial local authorities and their communities to develop gambling policies that eliminate the harm from gambling.

Problem gambling in New Zealand

An estimated 1% - 3% of the adult population are problem gamblers.[1] Because a problem gambler can affect the lives of between 7 and 17 other people, there could be up to 500,000 people who are affected by problem gambling in New Zealand.[2] Thus, nearly half a million people may be impacted by the harms of problem gambling, such as financial ruin, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, criminal activity, depression and suicide.

According to the Ministry of Health, electronic gaming machines (pokies) are the most harmful form of gambling as over 78% of problem gamblers use them as their primary mode of gambling.[3]. Because pokie machine venues are located disproportionately within low-income communities, these communities are exceptionally impacted by the harms of problem gambling.

Community perception of problem gambling and pokies

Community perception studies undertaken by some territorial authorities indicate that communities generally hold negative views on gambling, with specific concerns that communities are being seriously damaged by the growth of the gambling industry.[4] It has also been found that a majority of the public (64%) not only believe pokie machines are socially undesirable but are also in favour of maintaining or reducing existing venue and pokie machine numbers.[5]

As of late 2010, fourteen councils now have adopted a “sinking lid” policy, a district-wide cap that is below their existing number of venues and machines.


  1. Brown, R & Raeburn, J. Gambling, Harm and Health: Two perspectives on ways to minimise harm and maximise health with regard to gambling in New Zealand. Problem Gambling Committee, Wellington, 2001
  2. National Research Bureau (2008) 2006/7 gaming and betting activities survey. Wellington: Health Sponsorship Council and Health Sponsorship Council (2007) 2006/07 gaming and betting survey: New Zealanders’ knowledge, views and experience of gambling and gambling –related harm. Wellington: HSC.
  3. Ministry of Health. 2008. Problem gambling intervention services in New Zealand. 2007 service-user statistics. Wellington:MOH.
  4. City Council, 2007; Rotorua District Council ,2007; Hasting District Council, 2004; MWH New Zealand Ltd, 2003; Adams et al, 2004; Manukau City Council, 2003
  5. Health Sponsorship Council (2007) 2006/07 gaming and betting survey: New Zealanders’ knowledge, views and experience of gambling and gambling –related harm. Wellington: HSC.

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