The Ministry of Health is seeking a prompt resolution of a legal challenge by the Problem Gambling Foundation and has acted to ensure current services will not be affected while a judicial review is held.
Although the Ministry is satisfied its tender process was fair and transparent, and this has been confirmed by an independent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd, the Ministry considers that it is inappropriate to sign contracts with new providers until the Court rules on the challenge later in the year.
In delaying the introduction of any new contracts until the judicial review has been decided, the Ministry believes that the Court will be able to consider the matter without the signing of contracts with new providers being a complicating factor. This process will enable the challenge to be heard substantively but quickly, without the need for interim proceedings.
The planned changes, set to commence on 1 July, would have seen an improved delivery of services to prevent or minimise gambling harm in New Zealand. Implementing the problem gambling strategy through a new mix of service provision is a priority for the Ministry. The Ministry’s decision to delay signing new contracts is a direct consequence of the court proceedings, and not any merits of the case.
Affected service providers have been advised that new contracts for services will not be signed with a view to commencing 1 July 2014, as originally planned. Instead, existing contracts for problem gambling services will be extended until 28 February 2015.
The Ministry realises delays and uncertainties around services can create disruption in this important area for both service providers and service users. Maintaining services for current and new problem gambling clients is a priority for the Ministry, and this commitment will continue, with the Ministry providing assurances of the continuing availability of services.
The Gambling Helpline (0800 654 655) will continue to offer a 24 hour toll free service.