Tagata Pasifika

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Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

‘Incredibly harmful’: South Auckland pokies rake in millions

 South Auckland pokie machines raked in more than $20m in profit between October and December last year. Photo: RNZ
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

By Alka Prasad of Local Democracy Reporting

Pokie machines raked in over $20 million in profits from Ōtara-Papatoetoe, Manurewa and Mangere-Ōtāhuhu in the December quarter of 2023, data from the Department of Internal Affairs showed.

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu local board chair Tauanu’u Nanai Nick Bakulich says gaming machine profits show businesses are “creaming the top of a highly deprived community”.

He says the local board has opposed and successfully closed down alcohol outlets recently who would have featured gaming machines.

“We’ll continue to fight that fight at the appropriate times, like when there’s an application to the district licensing committee,” Bakulich says.

Ōtara-Papatoetoe pokies cashed in $8.2m last quarter, Māngere-Ōtāhuhu machines took $6.8m while Manurewa gaming machines made $5.5m in the same period.

Profits between October and December last year for electronic gaming machines hosted in pubs, clubs and TABs dropped 3.3 per cent in South Auckland compared to the same period in 2022, according to the DIA.

Community advocates say gaming machines in Ōtara-Papatoetoe, Māngere-Ōtāhuhu and Manurewa are adding to social harm in an already deprived area. Photo: RNZ

All machines in South Auckland are either in medium-high or high deprivation areas.

A spokesperson from gambling advocacy group Feed Families Not Pokies (FFNPokies) told Local Democracy Reporting that pokie gambling is “incredibly harmful” and is most prevalent in Pacific, Māori and Asian communities.

The group aims to reduce the number of pokies and venues around the country.

“We know more money per capita of adults comes from people in south and west auckland, where there is a high concentration of Pacific communities,” the spokesperson says.

Salvation Army social policy analyst Ana Ika says South Auckland pokie machines remain some of the most profitable in the country.

“Even though we have less pokie machines, the machines we do have make more money,” Ika says.

Ōtara-Papatoetoe local board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia says Manukau ward has a sinking lid policy for gaming machines, which means old machines no longer functional or belonging to one business can’t be replaced.

 Salvation Army social policy analyst Ana Ika says South Auckland pokies are some of Aotearoa’s most profitable but are in high deprivations communities. Photo: RNZ

Autagavaia says the policy means gaming machine numbers reduce over time.

But liquor licencing compounds the issue as a lot of bars in the area have gaming machines, he says.

“[Business owners] know how profitable keeping those machines are,” Autagavaia says.

“It’s frustrating that the sinking lid policy isn’t shrinking [gaming machine numbers] fast enough and that there’s always people trying to buy those properties that would otherwise lose gaming machines.”

However, he says there is a wider issue “about why our people want to gamble”.

“That’s because of poverty and not having a living wage,” Autagavaia says.

“People feel like they need to find out the best way to make money, and one of the ways is through gambling.”

“It is frustrating that those machines are still in our community.”

He says the sinking lid is the best way to reduce access to gaming machines in the community.

The Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand did not respond to a request for a comment.

Local democracy reporting

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