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Kiwis spend record amount on gambling in 17-18

Tue, Mar 5, 10:04am by Staff Writer

The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs recently released a report revealing that the amount spent by local citizens at four major gambling areas in the country rose by NZ$49 million compared to a year ago.

New Zealanders spent NZ$2.38 billion, with sports betting and poker machines the main drivers of the spending increase.

Players’ spend on sports betting increased by 3.6 per cent, while spending on poker machines grew by 2.9 per cent.

The other two main gambling areas – casinos and lotteries – both saw a spending increase of 1.1 per cent.

In spite of the larger spending, the average amount paid to gambling operators per person fell $14 to $634 in the 2017/18 financial year.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs, increased spending on sports betting was partly due to targeted marketing campaigns undertaken by gambling operators.

A significant growth in digital channels via product and special enhancements, as well as a number of successful marketing campaigns such as the FIFA World Cup and Spring Racing Carnival were also pointed to as reasons for the increased spend.

Gambling spend on pokies in the 2017/18 financial year rose to NZ $895 million from NZ $870 million, while casino spending increased NZ$6 million to NZ$578 million.

A Problem Gambling Foundation spokeswoman Andree Froude found the figures concerning, although not surprising.

Ms Froude explained that it was not accurate to look at the result on a per person basis, because not every adult in the nation gambles.

The large money flow is not generated by many people who spend a bit, but rather comes from a few people who spend a lot she said.

In the case of poker machines, 87 per cent of New Zealanders did not use them, Ms Froud said.

She also took issue with the increasing promotion of sports betting through the TAB, which had ‘normalised’ gambling and had the potential to attract a new demographic – young men – to the betting scene.

NZ$749 million or 31.4 per cent of proceeds from gambling went back to the community.

“Apart from the ethics of using money from gambling to fund communities, it’s a real concern that we are looking at gambling to fund communities when we know that it causes harm. 31.4 per cent is actually not a very good return,” Ms Froude said.

New migrants and online gambling

The director of the Auckland University of Technology’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre Professor Max Abbott said the amount of money being gambled by New Zealanders had fallen by about 20 per cent in 15 years.

Yet over that time, the levels of gambling-related harm had remained steady.

This was because of a large number of problem gamblers relapsing, Abbott said.

Half to two-thirds of current problem gamblers were people who had broken their habit before slipping back into it.

The stubborn rate of problem gambling was also partly driven by migrants from countries like China and the Pacific Island, who had not been exposed to gambling in the past and were more vulnerable to addiction.

A gap exists in the latest Department of Internal Affairs figures and that is the spending by New Zealanders on offshore gambling sites, such as virtual poker sites or video games that have a spending component.

This emerging sector is said to worry the Government according to the New Zealand Herald, because there is no oversight of offshore websites, they are not required to return money to the community and they have no harm minimisation procedures.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin is expected to release a discussion paper on regulating gambling websites in April.

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