This week the Department of Internal Affairs released the figures on proceeds from pub and club gambling machines in the first quarter of 2018. From January 1 to March 31, $212 million was generated from pokies, a 2.3% increase on the same period in 2017.
"This is disappointing news," says Lance Norman, Chief Executive Officer for Hāpai Te Hauora. "Even with sinking lid policies, a reduction in gaming venues, machines and licence holders, pokie machines are taking more and more money away from families and out of our communities."
The Department’s report notes a 4% reduction in gaming venues, a 3% reduction in gaming machines and a 9% reduction in licence holders. The stubbornly high rates of usage and spend in the face of this reduced availability of pokies indicates more needs to be done.
"Hāpai has said for years that Māori and Pacific whānau are the biggest philanthropic donors to community groups nationally. It just happens to be off the back of the immense harm caused by problem gambling - rates of which are much higher in our communities. Not only are we not seeing a meaningful reduction in pokies spend in communities that are already regarded as being at high risk of mental health and addiction issues, we also haven’t seen any game changing recognition to combat the impacts of gambling harm through the increased distribution of revenue.
Hāpai advocates against harmful gambling increases when it is socialised as a benefit to New Zealand communities. Mr Norman states "As a society we must have a conversation to ask ourselves why we are ok with those most at risk of mental health and addictions paying for, for the most part, our social activities. If we’re serious about reducing poverty, mental health conditions, addiction and improving liveability of our citizens, gambling habits and the profits it creates must be addressed".