Pokie gambling drops by $201,000

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 08/02/2013

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Palmerston North gamblers put $201,000 less into pokie machines in the last three months of 2012 than in the previous quarter.

They also had 18 fewer machines they could use, after the closure of the Fitzherbert Ave TAB, as shown in the latest pokie machine figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The closure of the Palmerston North RSA, which had 18 machines, also happened during the quarter.

The drop in spending and in machine numbers was an "excellent" trend, said city council community wellbeing committee chairman Lew Findlay.

As part of his community work he supports several clients who cannot resist the pokies.

"It's a horrific addiction.

"I have one client who just can't walk past the pokies, and you can't go anywhere in the central city without going past the machines,"

Mr Findlay said.

People in Palmerston North still blew $4.1 million on gaming machines, which was 1.94 per cent of the national amount.

Palmerston North officially had 410 machines at the end of December, but the demise of the RSA drops that number to 392, eight below the cap set by the council in May last year, down from the previous cap of 430.

The RSA closure could provide an opportunity for another operator to pick up the eight extra machines.

Cr Findlay said that he hoped the council would be able to act to bring the sinking lid down faster before that happened, but policy analyst Peter Ridge was not available to explain what would happen next.

The council's decision to reduce the cap on numbers last year was hotly contested by operators, by trusts that distribute a portion of the profits to community organisations, and by some of the groups that depend on their grants.

Cr Bruce Wilson summed up the industry as "a very inefficient method of supporting community groups", with about 4 per cent of what was put into the machines released for distribution.

Palmerston North's spending mirrored a national trend for the last quarter, when the number of gaming machines in the country's 1381 pubs and clubs dropped by just over 2.5 per cent from 18,133 to 17,670.

There were 29 fewer gaming machine venues compared with the year before.

Gaming machine spending declined by 3.1 per cent or $27.1 million to $839.7m. Spending of $214.6m in the fourth quarter of 2012 was $5.8m less than the same period of 2011 but $1.7m or 0.8 per cent up on the third quarter of 2012.

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- Manawatu Standard

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