Communities in New Zealand’s Waikato have borne the brunt of the game, with regions bearing the direct negative impact of the activity affecting some of the country’s poorest people. Pasifika and Māori are struggling to keep their gambling in check as locals increasingly turn to the slot machines that are ubiquitous in communities.
Waikato area suffers from gambling issues
Various online tools are being developed in hopes of helping communities, but more needs to be done. According to local media outlet Stuff, a total of NZ$82 million ($54 million) was lost on Class 4 poker machines in the 2020/21 financial year in Waikato. In other words, 95% of the benefits recorded in the region come from its poorest communities, which has profound social, economic and health implications for residents.
Problem Gambling Foundation CEO Paula Snowden has called for a closer look at the issue as a daily tally of NZ$224,756 ($148,770) is lost by people in the area, or just over 300 $NZD ($198) for each person aged 18 or over.
The amount spent on slot machines has increased exponentially, with the most recent results indicating that the amount used by Waikato residents increased by 7% year over year. The same trend is seen nationally – the amount spent on slots is increasing, but so are gambling losses.
According to Snowden, current national losses stand at nearly NZ$1 billion ($660 million) annually, the highest they have been in the past five years. There are other places that are also affected. The district of Thames-Coromandel lost NZ$11.8 million ($7.8 million) on slots in 2020/2021, indicating a serious underlying problem gambling problem in the region.
New solutions being tested, but there is still a long way to go
The Thames-Coromandel district currently has 248 slot machines at 20 licensed sites. Residents have already started to take action, hoping to phase out existing businesses, but it will prove difficult. At present, the district is refusing new license applications, although slot machine owners can now apply to the local council and seek to move, effectively prosecuting customers.
Meanwhile, the Problem Gambling Foundation, Deakin University, University of Auckland and The Salvation Army have created a set of online tools that can help consumers reduce their gambling quickly and effectively. A purpose-built website will be created and campaigns will be run to help at-risk and vulnerable gamblers cope.
The website will contain interactive modules that will allow consumers to not only opt out, but rather participate in various seminars and quick games that will help them better understand the impact of gambling on their lives.