Player losses on South Canterbury pokies reached $12m in 2021

The district of Timaru alone saw more than $10m spent on pokie machines.
The district of Timaru alone saw more than $10m spent on pokie machines.

Timaru boasts the highest annual per-person gambling spend in the Canterbury region.

New Zealand.- The Department of Internal Affairs has reported that player losses on South Canterbury slot machines reached $12m in 2021. More than $10m, or $28,000 a day, was spent on pokie machines in the district of Timaru alone.

The Mackenzie District came second with an average payout of $272.34 per adult resident and loses of AU$1,055,595 on 37 slot machines across four venues – about $2,900 a day. This is an increase of $270,000 from last year.

Figures for the first quarter of 2022 are expected to reach roughly the same amount as in 2021. In March, the Department of Internal Affairs revealed that New Zealanders spent NZ$2.63bn (US$1.81bn) on the four main types of gambling in the 2020/21 financial year. 

According to the Problem Gambling Foundation, every pokie machine in the district makes more than double Timaru’s median income of $30,300, with annual takings of $61,147.

Andree Froude, a spokesman for the Problem Gambling Foundation, told Stuff: “We’d really like to see councils do more, so the numbers of pokies can go down and the spend can go down. It can be difficult for councils because they probably feel like their hands are tied, sinking lids might seem like the best policy available to them.”

He has previously said Class 4 pokies are the most harmful form of gambling with nearly 50 per cent of people seeking help for gambling citing pokies in pubs, clubs and TABs as their main form of gambling.

Last June, Mackenzie District Council voted to update its current law to limit the number of slot machines, or “pokies” through the creation of a “sinking lid.” The process means that when a gambling venue closes it cannot be replaced by another, so the number of slots in the district will gradually be reduced.

The district of Selwyn also limited the number of gaming machines and the Timaru District Council is working on its gambling venue policy review.

NZ Government to invest US$47.9m in gambling harm initiatives

In order to help people with gambling-harm related problems, in June the Labour Government of New Zealand announced a NZ$76m (US$47.9m) investment for a new strategy aimed at preventing and minimising gambling harm-related issues.

The project will include:

  • Training pathways to enable a more skilled and diverse workforce, including more peer and cultural support workers;
  • New and expanded digital services and supports;
  • Education initiatives to reduce harm to rangatahi (young people);
  • A de-stigmatisation initiative to help change the conversation around gambling harm and encourage people to seek help;
  • Better support for vulnerable communities including Māori, Pacific, and Asian people.

Andre Little, minister of health, said: “The new funding and strategy aligns our gambling harm prevention and minimisation efforts with the reforms to the health and disability system and the new mental health system we’re building.”

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