New Zealanders are spending more again on the pokies but spending per person is static, despite better economic times.
The Internal Affairs Department says spending on gaming machines in pubs and clubs (excluding casinos) rose by 2 per cent in 2015, from $811.4 million in 2014 to $828.1 million.
That was exactly in line with a 2 per cent increase in the country's population in the year to last September, the latest figure available, indicating that spending per person was unchanged.
However, even that was a change from a long-term downward trend in pokie spending since gambling laws were tightened and local councils were allowed to impose "sinking lids" on pokie machine numbers in 2004.
Since then, pokie machines outside casinos have shrunk by a third from 25,221 to 16,393, and pokie spending outside casinos has dropped by a fifth from $1.04 billion to $828 million.
In the past year, spending has increased the most in cities with the fastest population growth such as Tauranga (up 6.9 per cent), Hamilton (up 4.6 per cent) and Auckland (up 4.5 per cent).
But spending was flat in Wellington and dropped by 3.1 per cent in Christchurch, where rebuilding work after the 2011 earthquake has recently passed its peak and some temporary workers may now have left the city.