Dunedin residents spent more than $17 million on the
pokies last year. Star reporter Jonathan Chilton-Towle
spoke to a woman who is fighting a gambling addiction while
working to re-establish a Gamblers Anonymous support group in
Photo from ODT files.
A group of gambling addicts are working together to resurrect
Gamblers Anonymous in Dunedin.
The group, which has not existed in Dunedin for several
years, had its first meeting last night in the Catholic
Social Services Building in South Dunedin.
One of the organisers, who wanted to be called Sandra to
protect her identity, said she started gambling relatively
late in life, in 2000. Although she had occasionally placed
bets at the races, she had never really gambled before that.
''I live on my own, I have no family around and am not
accountable to anyone, and therefore it was easy for me to go
to the pokie venue whenever I felt like it.''
Sandra began by spending around $20 per visit but her habit
quickly ballooned to spending around $300 in an evening.
''I was taking money out on my credit card and losing most of
my salary. I might be there for up to five hours without
using the toilet or having a drink of coffee, feeling guilty
all the time.
"The pokie rooms are warm, there are always people there that
I recognise. I know it is a waste of time and money but still
I'm drawn to it,'' she said.
Sandra has tried to quit gambling many times. She often
attended support meetings and at one point managed to quit
for 11 months. However, so far, she has always gone back to
On Friday, she had not gambled for one month and maintained
hope that she would one day be able to kick the habit
Sandra and some friends have decided to bring back Gamblers
Anonymous to help themselves and others.
''I found that talking to others about my gambling has helped
me stay away from the pokies. I think it's often hard for
people who don't gamble to understand how difficult it is to
stop and how other gamblers can help each other,'' she said.
Sandra believed there was a huge gambling problem in Dunedin
because she had seen large numbers of people at the pokies
Problem Gambling Foundation counsellor and health promoter
Thomas Moore said setting up Gamblers Anonymous was a
''really good thing'' as a wider spread of services meant
more people would be reached.
The numbers of people presenting to the Foundation with
gambling problems had remained relatively consistent, with an
estimated 130 to 150 new cases per year, he said.
It was hard to find reliable information about how prevalent
gambling was, he said.
At March 31, there were 490 pokie machines in Dunedin.
According to the Problem Gambling Foundation, most of these
were in the poorest third of the city.
According to the Department of Internal Affairs website,
gaming machine profits in Dunedin had been more than $4
million for the quarter up until March 2014.
If gambling continues at the same rate, profits will surpass
$16 million by the end of the year.
In 2013, gambling machine profits for Dunedin were more than