New Zealand’s opposition Labour Party in the year 2104 called for tighter controls on pokies following a survey that shows Kiwis are the world’s fourth-biggest gamblers per capita. Do your know kiwis fourth biggest punters?
According to then Internal affairs spokesman Trevor Mallard the government’s deal with SkyCity for a convention center in exchange for more pokies in its casino will make the situation even worse. “It’s a disgrace that New Zealand is number four in the world for gambling, according to the analysis in The Economist.”
Trevor suggested tighter rules and greater controls on pokies. This survey by UK consultancy H2 Gambling Capital puts New Zealand gambling losses at about $US500 ($A573) per resident.
Woolworths, one of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains, is the biggest operator of pokies in the country, managing about 12,000 machines through its majority stake in the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, a large group that runs bars, restaurants and wagering.
Though the Woolworths Group doesn’t distinguish liquor sales from gambling revenues in its annual report, estimates indicates that it pulls more than 1 billion Australian dollars, or $770 million, in revenue from the machines each year.
Pokies are regulated on a state-by-state basis, instead of by the federal government. Western Australia is the only state or territory that bans the operation of pokies other than casinos.
State budgets are increasingly made up of revenues from the machines, and legalized gambling, including from pokies, accounted for 7.7 percent of total tax revenues for Australian states in 2016. In some parts of Australia, gamers can deposit 7,500 Australian dollars into a machine in one transaction, and can lose more than a thousand dollars per hour.
Australia has the biggest Gambling Losses
Australia has the biggest gambling losses on a per capita basis, at over $US1000 ($A1,146), with Singapore and Finland second and third respectively.
The global gambling industry gathered in London in 2014 for the annual ICE gaming conference. It should be a happy affair, with gross winnings (total take minus payouts, excluding expenses) of around $440 billion in 2013. Then the industry’s biggest expo was held in London in 2017 where exhibitors in over 3,000 stands advertise the latest products designed to part punters from their cash, ranging from gaming apps to pokies machines and virtual-reality games.
As in other businesses, firms that were quick to embrace new technology have reaped rewards: online gaming is the industry’s fastest-growing sector, and accounted for 11% of the $385bn of gambling profits posted in 2016. But unlike companies that sell less controversial services, courting government regulators appears to be just as important as luring bettors for the bottom line.
Australians gamble (and lose) more than anyone else on a per-person basis, according to H2 Gambling Capital (H2GC), a British consultancy. The biggest chunk of this is spent on video poker machines, though tighter regulation in recent years has seen the country fall to sixth place in absolute terms.
In Singapore casino gambling is favored while Finns seem to prefer interactive gaming. (Macau does not feature in the rankings because its gambling revenue comes almost completely from tourists, largely from mainland China). America remains the world’s biggest market, but its global share has fallen from nearly a third to a quarter in the past decade.
This is partly because of a ban on most interactive gambling (sports betting and other games played on mobile phones, computers, or interactive TV). Over the same period, China has risen from the tenth-biggest market to the second-largest, with losses of $76 billion. Simon Holliday of H2GC expects China to become the world’s biggest market by 2020.
Social Cost of Problem Gambling in New Zealand
In New Zealand the estimated social cost of problem gambling in New Zealand, while significant to the families involved, is just 1-2% of the social cost of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The figure below shows the estimated social costs of harmful use of tobacco, alcohol, other drugs, and gambling.
Contrary to statements made by the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF), there is no evidence available that suggests that problem gamblers in New Zealand account for 40% of all gambling expenditure. There are currently no New Zealand data available to support this claim.
The 40% figure used by PGF has come from a 2010 Australian Productivity Commission report. The Australian gambling environment is very different from New Zealand, with the density of gaming machines more than double, and the gambling spends per capita nearly double. Consequently, the New Zealand percentage of gambling expenditure by problem gamblers is likely to be far lower than in Australia.
A 2011 research paper Gambling away perspective review of the evidence justifying electronic gaming regulations was critical of the Productivity Commission report and suggested the spending by problem gamblers was in fact between 10% and 20%.
A reduction of around 4,000 machines across the country since 2007 has had almost no impact on the small percentage of problem gamblers nationally.
Online Gambling in New Zealand
Imposing restrictions on gaming machines and venues may actually drive gamblers away from the controlled environment of gaming lounges, to the uncontrolled environment of online gambling. Not only is there no help available for online gamblers, but the money gambled does not return approximately a third to the community, a third to the government, and a third to gaming operators, as is currently the case.
Online gambling is growing at a rapid rate. In the United Kingdom, about the same proportion of gamblers play pokies machines online as those who play in person. Unfortunately, the NZ Health Survey does not cover online gambling, but can probably assume the numbers are not too different from the UK.