4 May 2018

Pokie spending on the rise despite fewer machines

5:51 pm on 4 May 2018

Gambling on pokie machines is on the rise and is being driven by New Zealand's poorest communities, the Problem Gambling Foundation says.

Auckland Council richest suburbs benefit most from pokie machines, despite poorest suburbs spending the most on them.

Auckland Council richest suburbs benefit most from pokie machines, despite poorest suburbs spending the most on them. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The latest Department of Internal Affairs figures show spending on gaming machines is growing.

New Zealanders have spent more than $210m dollars on pokies in the first quarter of this year despite the number of pokie venues, license holders and gambling machines all dropping.

Problem Gambling Foundation spokesperson Andree Froude said only 18 percent of people actually used pokie machines.

"So what we see is a significant amount of money being lost by a small number of people," she said.

"These pokie machines are predominantly situated in poorer areas, so this money is being lost by people who can't afford to lose it."

Places with large increases included Kaikōura, where gambling spending rose by 84 percent, the Chatham Islands (45 percent), and Carterton in the Wairarapa (37 percent).

That was despite the number of venues with pokies dropping by 50 to 1145. There were 523 fewer machines but the total number of machines was still 15,490.

Ms Froude urged Internal Affairs to investigate.

"It's a huge amount of money being sucked out of these communities," she said.

"We don't want to see an increase in spend as it usually means an increase in harm."

Gambling machine spending decreased year on year from 2003 but increased from 2013 in what DIA has referred to as a "trend", she said.