He said one in five New Zealanders were impacted by a family members' gambling addiction.

"We're paying for the kids who aren't going to succeed at school because they're hungry and they're sick. We as a society are paying for that," Dr O'Sullivan said.

More than $3.5 million was spent on pokie machines in the Northland District last year, according to Maori public health lobby Hapai Te Hauora.

"The cost of gambling harm is not just to the individual, but extends to the family, community and burdens our health system; it is, therefore, a cost to the taxpayer," says Hapai Te Hauora chief executive Lance Norman.

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