Gambling addicts ban themselves

By John Cousins

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Forty people have banned themselves from pokie machine venues in the Bay by agreeing to put their photo in a folder of problem gamblers held by bars and clubs.

The scheme was introduced 18 months ago and most pokie machine venues in the Western Bay are participating.

Problem gamblers can exclude themselves for up to two years although the Salvation Army recommended a shorter time because of the way people were outing themselves to bar managers and staff.

The idea was initiated by Paul Jones, from the First Sovereign Trust.

Salvation Army Oasis Centre public health worker Jeanette Arnold said the programme was running well after some initial teething problems. Latest gambling figures reveal the lure of playing the pokies is a lot stronger in Tauranga than the rest of the Western Bay of Plenty.

More than four out of every five dollars gambled in Bay pokie machines happens in Tauranga where profits totalled $28.14 million during the past 12 months. This compared with the Western Bay's rural townships where the machines turned a profit of nearly $6 million.

It meant that $34.13 million was retained by the region's 754 pokie machines which were programmed to pay out an average of 85 per cent to gamblers.

An analysis of gaming machine profits showed that nearly 83 per cent of the region's pokie profits were generated in Tauranga, though it had 72 per cent of the population.

Tauranga Central's 357 gaming machines lifted it into third place in New Zealand for gaming machine profits outside of casinos, despite a year-on-year comparison which showed that profits fell by about $860,000.

The biggest earner came from Ashhurst and Palmerston North Central's 428 machines, followed by Rotorua Central, which had 69 fewer pokies than Tauranga but more money gambled.

The Western Bay's heaviest pokie gamblers live in Greerton and Papamoa where 66 machines generated an average profit of nearly $61,000 each. This was $9000 more than each of Mount Maunganui's 140 machines and $14,000 more than in Tauranga Central. Omokoroa, Pukehina, Te Puna and Waihi Beach fed the least money into pokies, with profits of only $25,300 per machine. Katikati was next on $28,000 per machine, with Te Puke showing the greatest inclination to gamble from the Western Bay's rural towns at $38,000 of profits per machine. Ms Arnold said the drop in pokie profits was not matched by fewer problem gamblers seeking help. She suspected the drop in the overall spend was caused by well-off gamblers "clipping their wings a bit" in tighter economic times. Ms Arnold had noticed more older people were developing pokie machine habits. It could start with a group having a bit of fun, and grow into a problem.

"People should take care that as they grow older they do not accidentally become too friendly with the pokies," she said.

Bars had target markets and older people were made to feel comfortable in well-established environments.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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