Pokies lose in spending and number

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013

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The number of gaming machines continues to fall, as does the amount of money being gambled.

Figures issued by the Department of Internal Affairs show that the number of gaming machines in New Zealand's 1381 pubs and clubs dropped by 2.5 per cent to 17,670 in the year to December.

There were also 29 fewer venues of gaming machines than a year earlier.

Spending on "pokies" fell by $27 million or 3.1 per cent during the year to $839.7m.

During the fourth quarter, non-casino gaming machine spending totalled $214m, $27m of which came from chartered clubs, RSAs and sports clubs.

A department spokesman said the falling number of gaming machines had been a trend since 2004, after a new gambling act was introduced.

The act enabled councils to cap the number of pokies in their area, but Tom Fisher, president of Clubs New Zealand, said the cost of licensing and upgrading machines was also a factor in their decline.

"The cost of maintaining those machines . . . is dearer than what they'd get back from the machines. So they just throw them out and don't bother with them."

Fisher said declining gaming machine spending was a worldwide trend, with revenues falling about 10 per cent a year.

Tighter economic times and greater awareness of problem gambling were likely factors, he said.

Gaming machines outside casinos are one of four main types of gambling monitored by the department. The other three - TAB racing, NZ Lotteries and casino gambling - all showed healthy increases in income during the 2012 financial year to June, taking the total spent on gambling to a record $2.1 billion.

The gambling sector in total put $648m back into community or racing industry projects during the year.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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