There are 1381 places in New Zealand that are licensed to have pokie machines. There are five locations in northwest Christchurch within 20 minutes walking time from my place. The pokie machines are popular ways for people who are 18 and older(20 years if one tries to enter a Casino)to have a bit of leisure. But in Auckland, a deal for a new convention centre at Sky City Casino in exchange for up to 500 new pokies which appears to be about as transparent as the tidal waters of Manukau Harbour, raises some alarming questions.
New Zealand is a country with a struggling economy, where hundreds of thousands of people struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. It has social problems exacerbated by excessive alcohol supply available. The socio-economic areas most likely to have bars that have gaming licenses are in working class areas, where jobs are harder to come by. The local pub is the end of week stress reliever where a few beers can be had, a flutter might be taken on the races or a few dollars can be harmlessly made or lost on the pokies.
The reality is somewhat different. For starters, the environment of a gaming room is designed to encourage one to forget about what is happening outside of the room. There is no clock, if near a street frontage, there are either no windows or they are painted over, whilst the seats are delibrately made nice and comfortable to encourage long periods of sitting. The pokies are rigged so that at each turn the machine resets. If one nearly triggers a free games feature one time, there is no guarantee whatsoever that they will get on the next turn. Problem Gambling Foundation estimate that 85% of the time people will not make more money from pokies than they expended. In the final quarter of 2012, the Department of Internal Affairs gambling unit recorded N.Z.$214.6 million in gaming machine proceeds.
In the case of Auckland Sky City Casino, concerns have been raised about the problem gambling controls that the Casino uses to fulfill its legal obligations. The Prime Minister, John Key, says that there will not be a major increase in pokies, should the negotiated deal be signed off. A One News investigation involved a covert video recording of problem gambling in progress, showing their reactions to large losses. It mentioned concerns about the proactivity of Sky City Casino in banning known problem gamblers.
I am concerned that too many people who enter Casino’s are not being monitored properly for signs of problem gambling. The gambling industry will not voluntarily take actions that will effectively clip their wings, which means an Act of Parliament or a law change to existing legislation is necessary to get the industry to accept responsibility for its actions. The author supports the following:
- After 30 minutes continuous playing, the pokie locks up for 10 minutes; after 60 minutes whatever credit is in the machine is discharged or requires a staff member to clear.
- All license holders must supply water and coffee in their gaming rooms
- Patrons to the gaming room of Casino’s must register on arrival and sign out on departure, showing photo ID. Patterns will be recorded.
- A minimum 2 year ban from a gaming room, with options for 5 year, 10 year and 25 bans introduced.