The high number of pokie machines in Christchurch has lead to a high rate of gambling addiction, according to a new report. Julia Evans investigates
The city’s high number of pokie machines means Christchurch is “over-represented” in gambling addiction.
The Economic Impacts of NCGMs on Christchurch City report says although reported problem gambling rates are gradually declining for Christchurch, comparatively the number of people seeking assistance for gambling problems is high per head of population than nationally.
“The city remains over-represented in the problem gambling treatment service user statistics.”
In the last year, there were 1207 people who sought help for gambling problems in Christchurch – two per cent higher than the national average.
The report also said the city has more gaming machines per venue and more gaming machines per head of population compared to the national average.
“There is an association between density of machines and rates of problem gambling. More machines doesn’t necessarily mean more expenditure, but it may mean more harm.”
There are 1332 gaming machines in 86 venues. Of the country’s major cities, only Tauranga has more gaming machines per capita.
The Salvation Army Oasis national operations manager Lisa Campbell told The Star it supported 129 people in Canterbury last year who were harmed by pub and club pokie gambling.
“We also did brief interventions with another 128 people who were harmed by pub and club pokies.”
She said The Salvation Army saw less than 10 per cent of people affected by gambling harm.
The report was released to help inform the city council’s regulatory performance committee decision to re-approve its “sinking lid” policy.
The policy prevents any new class four gambling licences, which allow gambling on gaming machines in pubs and clubs, from being given out
for a further three years to
slowly reduce the number of pokies.
“It is considered appropriate to continue to focus on a reduction of gambling opportunities throughout the city. This is particularly because Christchurch continues to have a high number of gaming machines per head of population and comparatively high rates of people seeking assistance for gambling problems,” the report said.
The policy was put in place in 2004. Last week The Star reported that the city council is calling for the Christchurch Casino to give more money back to the community and help support problem gamblers.
However, the report also highlights a benefit of gaming machines. “The community as a whole benefits from the return of profits either as grants to
community organisations through the various trusts that own the machines or benefits provided to members of chartered clubs.”
The report said there had been concerns raised regarding the decline in funding.
But it says that continuing the sinking lid policy is still considered the best approach to reducing the gambling opportunities available.
•As of April there were 1332 non-casino gaming machines in 86 venues around the city.
•Christchurch has a high ratio of gaming machines per head of population. Tauranga is the only city to have more.
•The city received $13.6 million in funding from gaming machines last year. More than half went to sports clubs.
•Reported problem gambling interventions are gradually declining, but the city is still over represented with 8.2 per cent of people out of every 10,000 seeking help, compared to 6.2 per cent nationally.