Gambling experts have rubbished SkyCity's claims that Lotto is more harmful than pokies, saying just 0.5 per cent of problem gamblers participate in Lotto alone.

Problem gambling groups have expressed concern at Government negotiations with SkyCity which could allow the casino to install up to 500 more pokies.

SkyCity's chief executive, Nigel Morrison, has argued that its pokies, or casino gaming machines, are less harmful than Lotto tickets.

He said he felt "South Auckland mums" gambling at pubs were more at risk of dangerous addiction than casino visitors.


AUT University Professor Max Abbott, who heads the Centre for Gambling and Addictions Research, said these arguments did not stack up.

The NZ Health Survey found 99.5 per cent of problem gamblers participated in a form of gambling other than, or on top of, buying Lotto tickets.

In the past two years, nearly 200 problem gamblers who sought help for the first time said their main form of betting was casino gaming machines. A further 150 said it was their second-most common form of betting.

In the same timespan, just six problem gamblers said their main form of betting was Lotto.

Professor Abbott said these results echoed the results of face-to-face studies in New Zealand and Australia.

"Very few weekly Lotto players have gambling problems. Nearly one in five pokie players do."

New Zealand Lotteries has refused to enter the debate, saying it would be inappropriate to comment on Mr Morrison's claims.

The Centre for Gambling and Addictions Research said there was some validity to Mr Morrison's comment that ready access to pokies in pubs was an important factor in problem gambling.


In the past two years, 1374 problem gamblers said their main form of betting was in pubs. But Professor Abbott pointed out that this was in part due to the higher number of pokies in pubs (18,000) compared with casinos (2800).

The professor also headed a study which looked at the possible links between pokie numbers and problem gambling in New Zealand and Australia. Researchers found a "very strong association", and estimated a new problem gambler was created by the addition of each new pokie machine to a community.


Number of problem gamblers seeking help for:

* Pub gaming machines681
* Casino electronic gaming machines100
* Casino tables/cards57Lotto6

* Pub gaming machines693
* Casino electronic gaming machines91
* Casino tables/cards64
* Lotto0
(First time callers, Gambling Helpline New Zealand Report for National Statistics)