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New Report On Effects Of Gambling In Manukau

Media Release
14 August 2003


A new report into the social effects of gambling in Manukau City reveals that it costs the city approximately $91 million each year.

The report to Manukau City Council also says that the number of people affected by problem gambling ranges between 10,000 and 43,500 - or up to 15% of the population. This includes problem gamblers themselves and an estimated five other people directly affected. These figures are considered conservative estimates.

The report says the gambling problem appears to be largely hidden. In recent years the number of pokie machines in the city has rocketed, along with other gambling options including lotteries products, TAB, and Sky City Casino. More than 50% of the gambling machines in Manukau are located in poorer parts of the city.

Those at risk of problem gambling include the young, Maori, Pacific and possibly Asian people and Manukau has high proportions of these groups. In the Counties Manukau District Health Board area more Maori people live within one or five kilometres of a gambling machine than in any other DHB area in the country.

Estimated figures relating to economic impacts of gambling are outlined in the report. Detailed research in New Zealand is limited but Australian research found that the net gain in jobs and economic activity from gambling is small, given that the money involved is simply being diverted from spending in other areas.

Another extrapolation from the Australian research was that national costs are greater than the taxes raised by government from gambling activities.

The report outlines significant social impacts of problem gambling in Manukau City, particularly in neglect of children, relationship break-up, debt, eviction or forced home sales, crime and health problems.

These social impacts are likely to be greatest in lower socio-economic areas closest to gambling venues.

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis is appalled by the findings of the report.

"But I am not surprised. I have long believed it was a mistake to loosen up the range of gambling options and to allow virtually unrestricted numbers of pokie machines in particular. Since 2001 the number of pokies has gone up by 33% in Manukau. .

"Gambling addiction is spreading like a disease with terrible social consequences. We need to restrict the numbers of gambling outlets, but our hands are tied."

New gambling legislation is now going through Parliament but Sir Barry does not believe it will significantly address the problems. "In our submission we asked for powers to be given to councils to control the number and location of gambling outlets in their area, so that gambling could be responsibly managed. But sadly this intention is not evident in the Gambling Bill. It only allows controls on future gambling outlets. Unless the proposed legislation is changed we will not be given the tools needed to control the problem.

"I accept that most people in the community can have a harmless flutter without it developing into an addiction. And it must be remembered that the money raised by gambling does a lot of good in the community when distributed to organisations such as sports clubs.

"But for problem gamblers there is a devastating impact on themselves and their families, who in most cases are already financially struggling.

One of the prime messages used to tempt low income earners is the suggestion that by gambling they can escape being poor, which is not true for most."


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