Pokie fig­ures paint grim pic­ture

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JACK­SON THOMAS

Pokie ma­chines are suck­ing up in­creas­ing sums in parts of cen­tral Auck­land de­spite the num­ber of ma­chines stay­ing the same.

De­part­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs fig­ures for the 2016 fi­nan­cial year show large in­creases in the amount of money be­ing put into pok­ies across Auck­land. The fig­ures, re­quested by the Prob­lem Gam­bling Foun­da­tion (PGF), showed that in cen­tral Auck­land ar­eas which ex­pe­ri­enced a re­duc­tion in gam­ing venues also had a re­duc­tion in an­nual pok­ies rev­enue.

Ar­eas that had no re­duc­tion, such as the Al­bert-Eden area, had an in­crease in gam­ing rev­enue. In 2015 $13.7 mil­lion was spent on pok­ies in the Al­bert-Eden area. By 2016, that num­ber had in­creased by $1.2m to $14.9m, with gam­blers pour­ing more than $40,000 a day into the slots. The PGF also iden­ti­fied Pt Che­va­lier has a ‘‘pokie hub’’.

New Zealan­ders sank $843m into pokie ma­chines in the 2016 fi­nan­cial year, up $25m on 2015. From 2010 through to 2015, there had been a steady de­cline na­tion­ally on pokie rev­enue be­fore the lat­est spike.

PGF coun­cil­lor Bon­nie Lovich­He­wit be­lieved ac­ces­si­bil­ity to ma­chines was to blame for the in­crease. ‘‘This re­search tells us there is a clear cor­re­la­tion be­tween ac­ces­si­bil­ity and harm,’’ she said.

In the Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board re­gion, the num­ber of gam­ing venues was re­duced from 24 to 21 in the 2016 fi­nan­cial year which re­sulted in an­nual rev­enue de­creas­ing from $19.3m to $18.2m. In the Maun­gakiekie-Tamaki area, which had one more gam­ing venue pop up, pokie spend­ing rose from $18.3m to $20.1m. There are now 19 gam­ing venues in the area. In Orakei pokie ma­chine rev­enue for the 2016 fi­nan­cial year de­creased by $12,000 to $4.3m. The num­ber of gam­ing venues re­mained at six.

In New Zealand, about 40 per cent of prof­its from gam­ing ma­chines are put back into the com­mu­nity through var­i­ous trusts. How­ever, Lovich-He­wit said there was no leg­is­la­tion to en­sure money went back into the com­mu­nity it came out of.

Sky City re­turned just 2.5 per cent of its net profit to the com­mu­nity, through the Sky City Auck­land Com­mu­nity Trust. In 2016, that equalled more than $3.3m to com­mu­nity groups across the Auck­land and North­land ar­eas, a spokes­woman for Sky City said.

DANIEL TOBIN/FAIRFAX NZ

In New Zealand, 40 per cent of pok­ies prof­its are put back into the com­mu­nity through trusts.

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