Home' Christchurch Mail : August 16th 2012 Contents Huge debt from
Hooked: ''Every pokie machine in Christchurch has been ringing non-stop since the quakes.''
ADDICTED TO the crack cocaine of
gambling, one Christchurch woman
is slowly paying off more than
$100,000 in pokie machine debt.
She will be addicted to the noises and
flashing lights of the pokies for the rest of
A year ago the woman, who did not want
to be identified, hit rock bottom -- saddled
with debt she could not pay despite working
fulltime. She walked into the Problem
Gambling Foundation for help with an
addiction she never saw coming.
I had no interest in gambling until I got
hooked on pokies, she said. It started out
socially, $20 on a Friday night. About a
year later I was pouring over $400 a day
into the machines.
She now avoids all venues with pokie
machines but battles constantly to stay
It is always going to be a monkey on my
back. I will be an addict forever.
Some people have contested the removal
of pokie machines on the grounds that
addicts will gamble in other ways.
That is a myth, the woman said.
Pokies are dangerous and people
addicted to them will not find satisfaction
in other forms of gambling.
When she eventually sought help, she
was on the brink of crime to support her
I never committed a crime, I got out
before then. But you can be the most moral
person in the world, and those morals go
out the window when that little voice
rationalises stealing to support your gam-
You will turn to crime. You feel ripped
off by the machines, so you justify ripping
She said she had seen all kinds of people
get sucked in. A lot of these people are
hard-working, intelligent people. I have
seen pensioners feeding their food money
into these machines hoping to make it
stretch a bit further.
After the February quake she sat along-
side people desperately waiting for their
luck to change, to pay the next bill now
their home or job was gone.
Every pokie machine in Christchurch
has been ringing non-stop since the quakes.
Desperate people are desperately trying to
double their paycheck.
She had no sympathy for community
groups and sports clubs who argued they
relied on pokie machine funding to survive.
It is a weak, pathetic argument, to
rationalise bleeding money from our most
vulnerable people, addicts, to feed into
rugby or tap-dancing, she said. It s dis-
She said the harm caused by gambling
could not be balanced against the good of
For every pokie addict, there are a string
of people sick to their stomach watching
their loved ones gamble away their lives.
6 CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, AUGUST 16, 2012
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POKIE MACHINES: THE CRACK
Community value of pokie grants questioned
machines pulled in more than $80
million profit in the last year, but
the community will see only a
fraction of that money spent on
activities such as rippa rugby and
art classes for the elderly.
Under the 2003 Gambling Act,
gaming machines have been man-
aged by 50 gaming machine soci-
eties which also distributed the
funds back to the community.
Canterbury alone has 15 societies
distributing gaming funds from
Societies were required to
donate a minimum 37.12 per cent
of profits to authorised purposes
From the $81 million collected
in Christchurch since June 2011,
that amounted to a little over $30
The majority of the remaining
$51 million was spent on govern-
ment taxes totalling $28 million in
Christchurch: gaming duty $16.2
million, problem gambling levy
$120,000, GST $10.5 million.
Last financial year the govern-
ment collected $196 million in
pokie machine taxes nationwide.
Problem Gambling national
manager of public health Tony
Milne said the government had no
incentive to reduce gaming
machines when it was receiving a
significant amount in taxes from
The taxes on gaming machine
profits were almost as high as the
amount returned to the com-
munity. In addition, an average
16 per cent ($12 million) of profits
were spent on maintaining the 50
societies managing the machines.
Mr Milne said the financial
return to the community was not
worth the price the community
paid for problem gambling.
Yes, some of the money goes
back to the community, but where
else is it going? he said. For
every three dollars lost in the
machines, the community gets
only one dollar back.
Last year s $850 million
national profit amounted to $200
lost by every man, woman and
Every dollar spent on gaming
could have been spent at a local
business, bought a raffle ticket for
a sports club, or paid for a family s
bills, Mr Milne said.
With a new Gambling Bill going before Parliament, the gaming
machine industry could undergo significant changes. More
than $80 million was lost to pokie machines in Christchurch
last year. ABBIE NAPIER looks at where that money went and
the harm problem gambling causes to our community.
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