The $445m scourge of the pokie machines

Poker machines have been in the spotlight this week with revelations of how much money they are sucking out of the economy.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research says $445 million could have been pumped into the retail sector in 2018/2019 if the money hadn’t spent on the pokies.

That would have created jobs and kept the economic wheels turning. The NZIER analysis found the increased retail sales would generate an additional 1127 full-time equivalent jobs for 1724 workers, worth $50m in wages and salaries.

The study was commissioned by The Salvation Army and Problem Gambling Foundation, two organisations which see the downside of poker machines in the form of families unable to pay household bills and buy groceries, and addiction.

The study focused on class 4 poker machines – the ones in bars and clubs. Casino pokies don’t come under this umbrella.

New Zealanders spend around $900m a year on the pokies. There is nothing wrong with poker machines if you can afford to lose, which is the benchmark of all gambling.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
A study I read some years ago on pokie machines pinpointed people play certain machines for the sound they make, a deliberate ploy to trigger what sound attracts to a particular personality.

The hospitality industry relies heavily on poker machines for income, which keeps staff employed. Many bars would go under if it wasn’t for the machines. It also points out the large amounts of money which go to community groups, generated by pokie spending.

Many councils around New Zealand have been in the process of reducing the number of gaming machines by placing restrictions on transferring gaming licences when a bar closes or moves.

In an ideal world, the pokies would disappear in the lower socio-economic areas. Like the fast food brands, they know they have a ready-made market.

The chance of the jackpot with your last $20 is a huge draw for many.

People in the hospitality industry tell me benefit day is one of their best when it comes to poker machine spend.

But that doesn’t help buy food for the kids, which is very sad.



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