David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Poor losing out on pokie cash

New research shows poor communities are missing out on pokie funding. Photo / Duncan Brown
New research shows poor communities are missing out on pokie funding. Photo / Duncan Brown

Money tipped into pokie machines in the poorest parts of Auckland doesn't come back to those communities in gaming grants, new data shows.

In contrast, the wealthiest areas gamble far less but take a disproportionate amount of money out of other areas. This has been greeted as proof of a long-stated but never-proven claim about pokies - that the poor get poorer but the rich get richer.

The Auckland Council research is behind a challenge to government plans to ringfence 80 per cent of pokie grant distribution inside large regional areas. Instead, it wants a special system for distributing pokie grants inside Auckland which will allow the poorest areas to benefit from money gambled locally.

The research shows the biggest pokie players in Auckland are in the Otara-Papatoetoe area, putting $274 per person into gaming machines.

The area also rates among the highest in the region on the NZ Deprivation Index.
Residents in Orakei, Auckland's least deprived area, spend $49 each.

Orakei gets a 152 per cent return on money available for gaming grants in its own area - meaning the money returned comes from other areas.

The most successful is the Albert-Eden board area, which stretches from Pt Chevalier to Epsom. It gets a 176 per cent return.

The Mangere-Otahuhu area had the worst return - community groups and other worthy projects picked up 22 per cent of the grants money available for distribution.

Overall, the study found all of Auckland missed out to the benefit of the rest of New Zealand. The $214.6 million put into pokie machines would have made $61.6 million available for grants, on industry averages after expenses were taken out. Auckland got $35.2 million.

Read more:
Former rich-lister sentenced over pokie fraud
Elderly hit for pokie money

Auckland Council strategy and policy committee chairman George Wood said the ringfence did not suit Auckland and its "very diverse communities".

Green co-leader Metiria Turei called on ministers to address the findings of the research.
Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne, responsible for gambling regulation, said the revised Gambling Act, which included the proposed regulations, had yet to be passed.

He said the 80 per cent ringfence in regional areas would give "more flexibility" for communities to access grants. It would also allow national organisations to get funding for purposes benefiting specific regions.

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- APNZ

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