Ramil Adhikari, public health worker, The Salvation Army Oasis. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Problem gambling is a harmless habit at first, but beware of becoming addicted
The bitter truth of the gambling scene

Lisa Urbani

Ramil Adhikari, public health worker at the Salvation Army-Oasis, Gambling Service, is a man on a mission, to try to help people affected by the hidden addiction in Wairarapa – gambling.

It is estimated that New Zealanders are spending more than $2 billion a year, and $5.7 million a day, in gambling nationwide – sobering figures.

Pokie machines. PHOTO/FILE

In Masterton, the pokies are the biggest source of gambling harm, and Ramil shared a shocking fact – up to 300 experts are involved in the design of the machines, so that the flashing lights, the bright colours and speed with which they spin, the musical noises and winning “kerching-kerching” sounds, are carefully crafted to appeal, to stimulate, and to provide the endorphin rush to which a gambler becomes addicted.

Anyone, regardless of age or gender, or ethnicity, can become addicted to gambling, even if it starts out as a pastime for amusement or social interaction.

Often people who are lonely or depressed – particularly new immigrants – or have compulsive disorders, are more at risk.

Using different gambling methods such as going on the pokies, or online, or racing or sport betting, or gambling at a casino, also indicate a higher possibility of it becoming a harmful habit.

Other factors include, gambling large amounts at one time, abusing alcohol or drugs, or living in an area where pokie machines are more prevalent.

Many community organisations benefit from funds raised by pokie machines or Lotto, as it can be a welcome and useful source of revenue – thus causing a conflict of interests.

Gambling becomes a problem when you can’t stop, and it adversely affects your life, and those around you – usually about five to 10 people – studies have shown.

As Ramil says, “when you drink or take drugs, there are signs, with gambling it’s not so obvious, many so-called ‘respectable’ people become addicted.

“It’s a problem when someone starts avoiding their family, or missing school or work.

“When they are always trying to win back their losses, and they become stressed and agitated, or they can’t pay their bills, and they start being secretive or lying, or even turning to crime, then you know there is a problem, and they are not in control anymore.”

The results of problem gambling can be catastrophic for an individual.

Sinking into debt that becomes overwhelming, losing one’s job, relationship breakdowns, being unproductive, borrowing money and thus exacerbating the problem, feeling stressed and anxious, guilty, depressed or suicidal – all are side effects of problem gambling.

Ramil offers free counselling at Oasis – the only place that specialises in gambling addiction in Wairarapa –working together with problem gamblers to address their compulsive behaviour, by understanding the harm it causes in their life, and planning a way forward.

As with any addiction, the first step is admitting that you have a problem, and accepting that you need help.

For many people it’s a shameful secret, and they are reluctant to seek counselling, but all counselling is confidential.

Oasis offers the “Path to Wellness’, supporting people to make good choices and take personal responsibility, and to have an appreciation of rights and responsibilities in relationships.

Transforming one’s life means recognising that “the mind and spirit are the fabric of an individual and community well-being”.

The aim is to “enhance dignity, respect, identity, contentment and connection with others”.

As a medical graduate, with a post-graduate diploma in public health, Ramil is well equipped to use his expertise to improve the lives of others where he can.

“I am enthusiastic about improving the public health system in New Zealand.

“I have known the bitter truth of the gambling scene here, and it does not look good, that is why I joined Oasis, to promote gambling harm awareness in our community.”

One of the ways in which Ramil is trying to make a difference is in supporting the ‘sinking lid policy’ which can reduce gambling harm by not issuing new licences for pokie machines.

This means they cannot be transferred to a new venue or owner when a pokie machine venue closes.

He also presents a radio programme on Arrow FM each Friday at 10.30am to talk about the dangers of becoming addicted to gambling.

Called ‘Te waa Whanau,’ it encompasses information and advice about gambling, interspersed with music, and Ramil promotes the ‘Pause the Pokies and make time for Whanau’ message, that is part of the Gambling Harm Awareness Week, usually held in September.

  • Oasis 0800 530 000 or The Salvation Army-Oasis, gambling Service facebook page
  • Ramil Adhikari – ‘Te waa Whanau’ on Arrow FM radio
  • Radio: Fridays 10.30am
  • TV: Friday 9:30am Live, Repeat Friday 2pm, Saturday 5pm
  • Contact: ramil.adhikari@salvationarmy.co.nz