Gamblers spend less on pokies

By Kiri Gillespie, Teuila Fuatai

Less money is being spent on pokie machines in the Bay.

In the year to March 31, local punters spent about $520,000 less on pokies compared to the previous 12 months.

Figures from the Department of Internal Affairs show $33.6 million was spent at Western Bay gaming machines in the year to March, down from $34.1 million in the previous year.

Margaret Sloan, of the Tauranga Problem Gambling Foundation, said while the drop was relatively small, awareness around problem gambling in the local community had improved.

"People seem to be more ready to talk about gambling harm. We're hoping that there will be less spent or lost [through gambling] with more awareness," she said.

Figures also showed the number of Western Bay gaming machines fell in the year to March, from 754 to 717.

National pokie spending dropped 4 per cent in the year to March, from $865.4m to $828.7m. Licence holder numbers fell from 359 to 353, venue numbers dropped from 1403 to 1367 and the number of gaming machines declined from 18,001 to 17,542.

The Problem Gambling Foundation believed the decline was largely due to people's growing awareness of the harm caused, and the stellar summer had caused a quarterly decline.

Tauranga Riding for the Disabled chief executive Kat Macmillan told the Bay of Plenty Times it was heavily reliant on pub charity funds. She believed the drop in pokie spending reflected more people gambling online and this was a major threat to the operation of non-profit groups.

"Basically a huge amount of our operational income has been given to us by pub charity and not just us, other charities as well."

Graham Aitken from Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand said online gambling was on the rise but there was no evidence to suggest a correlating link between people who played pokies and people who punted online.

In Tauranga, regular pokie punter Corey Vincent said he played a couple of times a night, three to four nights a week.

"I just chuck in a $20 and see how I go. If I don't win I go home pretty much. I've been pretty lucky lately."

The 19-year-old said he only spent $20 to $40 a time. The most he's won in return was about $200. He said physically playing pokies was a good way to unwind and enjoy a drink.

Another woman spoken to while playing a pokie machine declined to comment because she was on a work break and did not have time.

At Settler's Bar in Wharf St, duty manager Hazel Purnell had not noticed a drop off in spending and said the regulars usually got $40 to $50 cash out but when some people tried getting $200 to $400, she would ask them to finish and leave because the bar had a limit.

"You get some real good regulars, then you get the ones who just want to spend. I say to them 'Go home and spend it on your kids'. I'm always saying that to them."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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