29 Apr 2011

More money going on pokies

8:30 am on 29 April 2011

Official statistics on gaming machine expenditure show a big increase in the amount New Zealanders are spending, with Christchurch showing the biggest rise.

In the first quarter of the year, spending nationwide on gambling machines was $205.1 million, up $5 million on the same period in 2010.

It is the first time since quarterly record-keeping began in 2007 that the amount spent on gaming machines has risen in a year-on-year analysis.

People in Christchurch spent $600,000 more than during the same period in 2010, to make a total of $19 million, despite the fact that one quarter of the city's machines were out of operation after the 22 February earthquake.

February's earthquake shut down the city's casino and gamblers who used to play there have moved into the suburbs.

The Redwood Hotel, in the north of the city, says it had been accommodating a peak of between 300 and 400 gamblers and taking $10,000, although those numbers have now pared back.

Department of Internal Affairs regulatory and compliance operations manager, Mike Hill, says the situation in Christchurch has created a unique environment for gambling. He says gambling venues are to come in for much closer monitoring.

The department says in view of the figures, publicans need to be vigilant of problem gambling and it will be sending out inspectors to check specifically on this.

The Problem Gambling Foundation believes increased desperation is behind the surge in gaming machine takings, especially among people in the lower income brackets.