Ministry to look at gambling marketing - Tuesday 28th of July 2009

The Ministry of Health wants to pay for research probing issues such as whether casinos and the TAB -- and other parts of the sector -- target specific cultures, such as gamblers of Chinese or Korean descent or Polynesians.

The ministry has budgeted nearly $700,000 for the research into how to prevent and address gambling harm, according to proposals published on the Governments electronic tenders website.

Four projects are investigating impact characteristics of venues, and games, and marketing on gambling behaviour and the reduction of harmful gambling.

They are also looking at whether players on electronic games can be reined in with warning pop-up panels -- also known as player information display systems (PIDS).

The $220,000 marketing study looks at the impact of marketing, advertising and sponsorship on gambling perceptions and behaviour. Internal impacts include the use of culturally-specific imagery in venues, and in the wider community, they include sponsorship of community events.

In other research in 2006, the ministry noted that while casinos were not seen as creating harm on the whole, for certain groups, such as Asian gamblers, they did cause significant harm.

Kefeng Chu, one of the principals behind the creation of New Zealands Asian Problem Gambling Service, has said Asians are seen very often crowding around a casino gambling table and this gives a perception they are all problem gamblers.

"Its not that Asians have a particular predilection for gambling," said Mr Chu. It was more a visibility problem, but it was difficult to fight an entrenched notion of the Asian stereotype.

Overseas experience had shown that Asian gamblers of different cultural backgrounds could be affected by the way gambling was marketed and presented.

Australian-owned Crown Casino in Macau was at one point reported to be light on punters because it had bad feng shui, with the main gaming floors apparently triangular, pointing in toward the wall with no visible flow path. And the fountain at the entrance, a good feng shui element, turned off punters when it was out of order. In New Zealand, a specific $96,000 study will investigate how venue characteristics such as layout, jackpot structures, noise, and light influence gambling behaviour.

Separately, the ministry has budgeted another $96,000 to find out how game characteristics such as pay-offs, play speed, near-miss features and jackpots influence gambling.

The ministry is calling for researchers to register interest in the studies, which include questions developed with the Department of Internal Affairs and representatives of the gambling industry.

Questions it has proposed include the effect of advertising, sponsorship and promotion of gambling on public views and attitudes, and whether the marketing of large lottery jackpots encouraged people to spend more on lotteries than they usually did.

The ministry wants to know whether use of terms such as "jackpot", "bonus", and "must be won" changed gamblers perceptions of the likelihood of winning, and how many people spent more than they could afford on trying to win big jackpots.

Up to $240,000 will be spent studying the potential for pop-ups to constrain use of electronic gambling machines.

Successful tenders for the work are expected to be identified in October, with the deadline for delivery of the research to be in June 2013.

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