Small town with some big spenders

For a small town, Kawerau has some big spenders. Department of Internal Affairs figures show the Bay of Plenty town spends more money per head on poker machines than anywhere else in the country.

A new electronic monitoring system lets analysts see how much money goes into poker machines each year.

From April, when the monitoring system was installed, to December last year, Kawerau residents put $2,388,710 into the town's 72 gaming machines.

That means Kawerau's 7000 people spends on average about $455 each a year on pokies.

Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell said he was unimpressed by the recent findings.

"It is not something to be proud of, but you have to remember that our catchment is quite large, which has a significant effect on our statistics."

Mr Campbell said he would rather see people in Kawerau playing poker machines than betting on horses.

"I would rather see the money go into something that comes back into the community."

Many community grants come from gambling machine proceedss.

Kawerau has a cap on the number of poker machines allowed in the town.

Mr Campbell knows that people get addicted to poker machines, and is also aware that the problem will not go away.

"My gut feeling is that there are definitely problem gamblers in Kawerau but if they didn't have pokie machines, there would be other forms of gambling.

"What concerns me is that once it starts, they can't get away."

One Kawerau resident who did get away from poker machines is Shane Jacobson.

"I used to play about once a week, but I lost interest because it kept taking my money," he said.

Mr Jacobson hasn't played on poker machines for about seven years and recommends that more people give up.

Problem Gambling Foundation counsellor Chrissie Clement, who works in Kawerau helping people with gambling addictions, said the amount of money spent on poker machines in Kawerau wasn't a surprise.

"If people played regularly, once a week for a few hours, then every one in four will develop a problem."

- DAILY POST

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