Pokie spending is rising at the fastest rate in five years as immigrants and tourists swell the coffers of pubs and clubs.

Spending increased by 3.3 per cent from $193.2 million in the first quarter of last year to $199.5 million in the same period this year, the Department of Internal Affairs said.

Spending was the highest for any March quarter since 2012, and the rate of increase was the fastest of any quarter since the June quarter of 2011 as the country emerged from the global financial crisis.

After keeping pace with a 2 per cent population increase due to high net immigration last year, pokie spending is now increasing faster.


The regional pattern suggests this is partly due to a record inflow of tourists this summer. The biggest year-on-year increases were in Taupo (up 13.5 per cent), Central Otago (up 12.2 per cent) and Queenstown-Lakes (up 12 per cent).

Spending was also up 10.5 per cent in Tauranga, 6.5 per cent in Rotorua and 4.7 per cent in Auckland.

But punters spent less in Christchurch (down 3.9 per cent) as the post-earthquakes rebuild wound down, and in Dunedin (down 0.9 per cent) and in many rural districts off the main tourist trails.

Spending in pubs rose by 3.3 per cent to $174.3 million, while spending in clubs rose by 2.9 per cent to $25.2 million.