New data provided by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) revealed that operators of poker machines in the south part of Auckland generated profits estimated at AU$21 million over the first three months of 2021.
The figures are broken down by south Auckland’s local board areas, including Manurewa, Papakura, Franklin, Māngere-Ōtāhuhu and Ōtara-Papatoetoe. Reportedly, the numbers have declined from the ones registered in the previous quarter (the fourth quarter of 2020), when so-called pokie venues in south Auckland generated over AU$26 million. This equalled electronic gaming machine profits of AU$252 million nationwide in the period from October to December 2020 and has been the highest reported rate since the Department of Internal Affairs started keeping records back in 2007.
Despite the decline, Andree Froude, spokesperson of the Problem Gambling Foundation, warned that the amount being spent by local residents on poker machines in the south part of Auckland is still a major concern. Ms Froude explained that although the rates are lower, a massive amount of money was still being spent on pokies and there would be harm associated with that spending.
Ms Froude said there are too many electronic gaming machines in south Auckland and the region needs to see a change because the existing system does not work well and pokie machines are only contributing to more poverty. She also described the relationship between the area and the machines as a “cycle of dependency”, raising a red flag that a large portion of the pokie revenue is being generated by the poorest communities and people who simply could not afford to lose money on pokies.
Ackland Council Keeps Sinking Lid Policy to Limit the Number of Pokies
As Casino Guardian reported, in October 2020, the Auckland Council voted to keep its sinking lid policy in terms of the pokies operating in the region. Under the policy, no new permits for the operation of poker machines are set to be issued for new venues. Also, the sinking lid policy does not allow cubs to transfer their machines to another in case it ceases operation – a move that is expected to help the authorities reduce the total number of machines in the region.
What is considered one of the major problems associated with controversial poker machines is the fact that the majority of venues offering pokies are usually situated in areas that are financially disadvantaged, with south Auckland being such a deprived area. According to the Problem Gambling Foundation’s spokesperson,
As Ms Frounde said, the local councils are limited by the Gambling Act 2003 in what they are allowed to do to address the effects which problem gambling has on society.
On the other hand, a report filed to the Regulatory Committee of the council in October 2020 provided more details of the scale of gambling addiction and gambling-related harm. According to the data available in the council paper, over 50% of the residents of Auckland seeking professional help and treatment of their gambling addictions originated from the south part of the city. More than 50% of the ones seeking help used electronic gaming machines.