Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne spoke in 2011 of the Government’s intention to act with urgency to control the availability of the synthetic cannabis Kronic. This was in marked contrast with its lack of seriousness around gambling, as revealed in the recent deal with SkyCity Casino to invest $350 million in a convention centre in return for a relaxation of gambling laws.
This lack of seriousness is emphasised by Auckland Mayor Len Brown, who suggested that a few more gambling machines wouldn’t do much harm, and by Prime Minister John Key, who pointed out that casinos offer a more monitored and responsible gambling environment. Both these comments misrepresent the scale and nature of impacts from gambling. In New Zealand, besides the Government receiving about $300 million to $400 million in revenue from pokies per year, the profits also contribute to a range of developments which a government might be expected to support, but which gambling windfalls enable them to side-step.
The Gambling Act 2003 defines a problem gambler as a person whose gambling causes harm or may cause harm. For some people, the consequences of their problems are devastating for themselves and often for others in their lives.
Seven years have passed but the situation has not been better. If you walk into pubs like in Wellington or clubs across the country you will find pokies affecting people specially in lower socio economic areas. Many players have been gambling over 20 years and pumping their hard earned money into these machines The pokie industry in New Zealand is nothing short of a plague on the society. Most people would have no understanding of the pain and suffering these machines cause to the majority of players, their families and to society in general.
These machines are the crack cocaine of gambling. They are designed to be incredibly addictive, but unlike drugs they’re seldom vilified because the pain and suffering they create is less obvious to the casual observer. The product of these machines is crime, depression, family break-ups, violence, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse.
As a gambler, you promise yourself you’ll never go back, then before you know it you’re there again. Once you’re there, the only time you get off your seat is to go and withdraw more money, probably from a credit card that will leave you with crippling debt.
You continuously tell yourself lies – that you can get out of the debt, that you can beat the addiction. You lie to those you love, the shame and disgrace driving you to go great lengths to cover up the addiction. Often this only results in more credit cards and deeper debt.
The fact a percentage of the funds from the pokies are distributed by Trusts to community groups and sports teams seems to rationalise their existence and make many turn a blind eye to the absolute path of destruction left in their wake. This is absolutely ludicrous. The pubs and clubs charged with regulating and policing the use of the machines are the ones who also benefit the most from their high volume of usage. Without problem gamblers, their pokie profits would be close to nothing.
Many experts suggest to get rid of pokies all together from pubs and TABs. If that happened it would contribute to a heavy reduction in crime, violence in general, depression, family break-ups and suicides in New Zealand. If a pub cannot survive without the income from pokies and the toll of human misery that comes with them then the pub is not a viable business in the first place. No pub owner that has pokies on their premises can honestly say they do not have problem gamblers, and that the bulk of the pokie take does not come from these people. The tidal wave of misery the machines create far outweighs any positives they bring.
Politicians and the public need to wake up and realise pokies are a massive problem in New Zealand that has been left to run riot for too long. They are simply everywhere and it is time for serious change. Pokies are an evil scourge on our society. The social issues they create are comparable to those arising from drugs and alcohol, and it’s time they received the same attention.
If you think you are one of the players who is facing pokies addictions then you need help and counselling. You can contact the following immediately:
- Addiction Advice and Assessment Services 03 548 2230
- 24-hour Helpline 0800 654 655
- Maori Gambling Helpline 0800 654 656
- Pasifika Gambling Helpline 0800 654 657
- Youth Gambling Helpline 0800 654 659
- Gambling Debt Helpline 0800 654 658
- Problem Gambling Foundation 0800 66 42 62
- Salvation Army Oasis 0800 53 00 00