Gambling is one thing that really riles me up.

It's just a total waste of money. More often than not you are going to lose money - especially playing pokies.

On Tuesday we reported that Western Bay and Tauranga residents lost more than $36 million playing pokies in the year to June.

That is unbelievable. To me that's $36m poured down the drain. And that's just the gamblers' net loss - the total amount wagered minus any winnings or payouts.

Advertisement

I don't understand why you would want to waste time and money playing pokies but those figures show it's obviously a serious problem for a lot of people.

Tauranga's Salvation Army Bridge and Oasis programme manager Daryl Wesley said in the last six to eight weeks they had seen more people walk in off the street seeking support for problem gambling than in the six months previous to that.

That's a real worry, especially when there are so many families already struggling to get by, with many forced to live in cars or garages.

Salvation Army Oasis public health worker Stephanie St George said the sad reality was that many problem gamblers were from poor or deprived communities.

The optimist in me hopes the housing crisis might have forced people to seek help for their gambling addiction so they can afford to pay the increasingly high rent prices and put food on the table for their families.

Mr Wesley wondered if others might be turning to gambling because of the stress created by the housing and rent crisis - the pessimist in me fears that may be more the case.

Either way, we need change.

Much of the money spent on pokies goes to community organisations and many groups rely heavily on it but I believe they need to think hard about where that money comes from and if that is something they want to be supporting.

These community organisations do a great deal of good but in my opinion, that does not outweigh the huge harm done by gambling addictions.

The only way we are going to see a real change is if we get rid of, or drastically reduce the number of, pokie machines.

For that to happen there needs to be a shift in the attitudes of community organisations, those who own the machines and the Government.

This is not an issue we can stay silent on.