With their neighbours Australia already attempting to implement a strategy when it comes to pokies, New Zealand might soon follow suit if the numbers using the machines continues to escalate. The first three months of the year saw pokie-machine spending rise for the first time in four years.
Stuff.co.nz reports that New Zealanders lost $205.1m in the first three months of the year, a figure that is $5.2m more than at the start of 2010. The fact that a tragic earthquake rocked the country in those three months might explain why the figures have risen, a view that Lotteries Commission chief executive Todd McLeay supports.
He said that for a relatively small sum, people could get “positive thoughts” about the chance of winning a vast fortune “when a lot of other things may not be so positive.”
On the other side of the coin, Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey, agreed that the current climate is meaning more are turning to the machines.
“As a general trend New Zealand’s woken up to pokie machines; we’ve been seeing a gradual decline in spending as people have woken up to the fact that they are dangerous machines.
“The most likely explanation is increased desperation, and people looking for ways out of the financial difficulties that they’re in. Times are a lot tougher now and are just getting tougher.
“In the demographic where pokies tend to be over-represented, which is the lower socio-economic areas, times are very difficult.”
Interesting to note is the fact that the scene of the earthquake, Christchurch, saw spending rise by 3.2% to $19m even though over a quarter of the machines in the city were out of action.
It’s unlikely that the news will push the Kiwis to go the same way as the Aussies and the levels should return to normal when they’re next reported in three months time. The only problems might arise if spending continues to rise and New Zealand’s government sees Australia’s pre-commitment bandwagon as an attractive option.