South Auckland pokies spend is down but anti-gambling advocates not celebrating

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Queensland pokies spend reaches record high

New data on Auckland pokies spend has revealed that poker machine revenues from one of Auckland’s most challenged socioeconomic regions have decreased, but anti-gambling campaigns remain wary.

Casino Guardian reports that new data provided by the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs revealed that poker machines in south Auckland generated A$21 million worth of profits in the first three months of 2021.

The figures encompass areas including Manurewa, Papakura, Franklin, Mangere-Otahuhu and Otara-Papatoetoe.

The numbers on Auckland pokies spend have dropped from those registered in the fourth quarter of 2020, where venues in these areas generated more than A$26 million.

Despite the decline, spokesperson for the Problem Gambling Foundation Andree Froude warned that the amount being spent by local residents on poker machines in the region is still a major concern.

She explained that although the spend was lower, a massive amount of money was still being spent on pokies and there would be harm associated with that level of unsustainable spending.

Ms Froude said there are too many electronic gaming machines in south Auckland and the region needs to see a change because the existing system does not work well and pokie machines are only contributing to more poverty.

She also described the relationship between the area and the machines as a “cycle of dependency”, raising a red flag that a large portion of pokies revenue is being generated by the poorest communities and people who simply could not afford to lose money on pokies.

Auckland council keeps “sinking lid” policy

In October 2020, the Auckland Council voted to keep its sinking lid policy, which means no new permits for the operation of poker machines will be issued for new venues.

It also does not allow clubs to transfer their machines to another, in case it ceases operation, a move that is expected to help authorities reduce the number of machines in the region.

Considered one of the major problems with the machines is that the majority of venues offering pokies are situated in financially disadvantaged areas, with south Auckland being such a deprived area.

Differing views on impact of sinking lid policy

As Ms Froude said, local councils are limited by the Gambling Act 2003 in what they are allowed to do to address the effects which problem gambling has on society.

A report filed to the Regulatory Committee of Auckland Council provided more detail on the scale of gambling addiction and gambling-related harm.

According to the data available in the council paper, more than 50 per cent of residents of Auckland seeking professional help and treatment for their gambling addictions originated from the south part of the city and more than 50 per cent of the people seeking help used electronic gaming machines.

There are different rules regarding profits from public gaming machines and club machines.

Public gaming machines are required by law to invest a percentage of the income back into the community.

The clubs don’t have to, but many do.

Otorohanga councillor Bryan Ferguson has been outspoken against the sinking lid policy was driving money out of the town.

“So the whole community loses anyway,” he said.

“The money that the majority of the people spend in gambling in our district is their own money.

“And we can’t control or even try to control what the total financial loss of our community is through gaming. That’s a bit of a fallacy that really bugs me, saying it reflects the social demand for pokie and gaming machines in our district.

“I understand people don’t have any way of demonstrating a demand, if we have a sinking lid policy.

“There is no option for any business to grow and maybe a bar or another business to start in town or even the whole district, if we have the sinking lid policy we have at present.

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