The Government could cut the number of pokies in pubs, and making the pokies that remain less inviting to potential problem gamblers as a result of reforms to gambling rules.
Consultation on possible reforms closed yesterday, and the minister in charge, Jan Tinetti, wants to implement recommendations by the end of next year, meaning the number of pokies in some communities could begin to fall soon (the number of pokies has already been in decline due to local authorities implementing sinking lid policies).
But the organisation representing class four gaming machines - machines in basically anywhere but a casino - has warned that this will simply push problem gamblers into the wild west of online gambling, where addicts can gamble entirely unsupervised.
Gaming Machine chair Peter Dengate-Thrush said the review came with the "very real risk of creating more harm".
He said one of the ideas put out for consultation was "very clear on stopping people from gambling", as distinct from reducing problem gambling.
Dengate-Thrush believed stopping people from gambling would be illegal.
"Gambling is a legal activity," He said. "The Gambling Act talks about controlling gambling, not banning gambling."
He said existing efforts to reduce the number of gambling machines had not led to a material reduction in problem gambling.
"This approach [of] stopping gambling [to] stop problem gambling has resulted in the removal of over 10,000 gaming machines over the last 10 to 15 years, but the rate of problem gambling remains the same," he said.
Dengate-Thrush warned that cutting the number of pokie machines would simply push people into online gambling, which was still largely unregulated and unsupervised compared with gambling machines in venues such as pubs.
But the Problem Gambling Foundation's marketing and communications director, Andree Froude, said online gambling fears were a "red herring".
She said pokes were the "most harmful form of gambling" and the review was an "acknowledgement by the Government the current regulations aren't' reducing the harm".
She said there was "no evidence to suggest people are going from pokies and going to gamble online".
Froude said existing policies on reducing the number of pokie machines were not hitting the right areas. These policies are known as "sinking lid", which means the total number of pokie machines in an area could decrease, but not increase sinking the "lid" of the total number of pokies.
"They [the number of pokies] don't go down in the areas where they need to go down. Many councils are recognising that sinking lid policies just don't go far enough," she said.
Froude said she would also like to see further regulation of the way the machines worked. She wanted no "jackpots", and no "losses disguised as wins", where machines dispense winnings that are less than the amount people gambled to begin with.