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A first-of-its-kind phone application has been developed with the aim of curbing compulsive gambling behaviour.
The Smart Phone based Gambling Evaluation Technology Testing Initiative, or SPGeTTI has been a project spearheaded by University of Auckland researchers.
Its aim is to reduce or stop the high number of New Zealanders with gambling additions by using two approaches.
The first warned problem gamblers when they were close to pokies or gambling machines by utilising the GPS device on a phone.
SPGeTTI’s database contained about 260 pokie machine locations scattered across the Auckland region and users would be issued with a warning message when close-by.
The second approach included regular tips and prompts which could be used to give users ideas on how to stick to their goals.
In the event of a person losing control, it provided instant contact to support like close family members and gambling helplines.
The University of Auckland’s National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) co-head Gayl Humphrey said SPGeTTI was designed to be a “little angel in your pocket”.
“The idea is that we develop a whole raft of behavioural changes underpinned by theory, then we try to distil it into being able to be delivered by a phone, Humphrey said.
Work on the app began in 2017 and was currently still in its research study investigation phase conducted by the University of Auckland, she said.
“The more people we can get to use it, the more information we get and the more we can understand,” Humphrey said.
“The continuum of gambling harms goes right from the diagnosed problem gambler to the person experiencing just some small problems.“
A 2014 National Gambling Survey found about 117,500 New Zealanders experienced significant gambling-related harm, with Māori and Pacific adults having a higher chance of becoming problem gamblers.
NIHI director Chris Bullen said SPGeTTI was the first application of its kind.
Inspiration came from commercially available products which alerted people to nearby sales in malls, Bullen said.
“We thought why not use that same technology to try and shape people’s behaviour in a positive direction,” he said.
Problem Gambling Foundation spokeswoman Andrée Froude said it supported the app as it was a useful tool to reduce the harm from gambling.
“While it doesn’t replace counselling, the app is an excellent intervention tool that uses encouraging and supportive harm minimisation messages assisting people to achieve their goals,” Froude said.
The GPS warning was a “particularly powerful tool” because pokie machines were the most harmful and addictive form of gambling, she said.
Problem Gambling Foundation would be recommending the app to its clients.
SPGeTTI is available for Android phones and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
How to get help
* Addiction Advice and Assessment Services 03 548 2230
* 24-hour Helpline 0800 654 655
* Maori Gambling Helpline 0800 654 656
* Pasifika Gambling Helpline 0800 654 657
* Youth Gambling Helpline 0800 654 659
* Gambling Debt Helpline 0800 654 658
* Problem Gambling Foundation 0800 66 42 62
* Salvation Army Oasis 0800 53 00 00
Source: European Gaming Industry News