Wanganui punters dropped a total of more than $9 million into the pokies last year, new figures reveal.

But our love affair with the addictive machines appears to be waning, with gaming expenditure across the region in decline.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs, the amount spent on Wanganui pokies last year dropped 8.8 per cent from the previous year's $10.2 million - more than twice the national decline.

The number of gaming venues in the region remained unchanged at 18, as did Wanganui's 257 machines.


Nga Tai O Te Awa gambling coordinator Jamie Proctor said the figures revealed the "biggest drop" in pokies spending in years.

"We're hoping people are starting to acknowledge the harm that they're doing ... that it's not harmless fun," he said.

"The machines are designed to be addictive - the sounds and the lights contribute to that."

Some gamblers were opting to "self-exclude" from venues in an effort to quell their addiction.

"Since May of last year, Nga Tai have implemented a programme where people can come to the service and exclude from multiple venues at once."

Discussion about problem gambling was becoming more common, especially in light of Auckland's SkyCity convention centre deal, she said.

Nationally, figures are in decline. Machine numbers fell from 17,670 to 17,266 and gambling spend fell 3.3 per cent from $839.7 million to $811.6 million.

Pokies are New Zealand's most harmful form of gambling, with 58 per cent of problem gamblers who seek help citing the machines as the primary source of the problem.

But Problem Gambling Foundation acting chief executive Graham Aitken said people were losing interest in pokies.

"I think people are starting to understand you can't win on them."

Young people were especially clued up.

"Machines have been around for a couple of decades now. Younger people don't play these machines ... they are a lot cleverer than the rest of us."