It is a pattern of behaviour that disrupts and damages a person's life, their friendships, family relationships and job interests.
Problem gamblers suffer from increased rates of bankruptcy, arrest, imprisonment, unemployment, divorce and poor physical and mental health. There is also evidence to suggest that problem gamblers have higher rates of suicide.
Gambling activity increased significantly in the 10 years between 1994 and 2004. The number of gaming machines or 'pokies' in pubs and clubs increased from 7,770 in June 1994 to 22,734 in December 2003.
Consistent with this increase in gambling activity, there has been growth in the number of people seeking help. New callers to the Gambling Helpline have more than doubled in the past six years, with 4644 new callers in 2003.
In 2003, 83.6% of callers to the Gambling Helpline said that 'pokies' were the primary cause of their problem. (Ministry of Health: Fact Sheet 1: March 2004)