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Press Release – Gaming Machine Association Of New Zealand

The Salvation Army and Problem Gambling Foundation this week released a report commissioned from New Zealand Institute of Economic Research outlining the significant economic benefit that would apparently accrue to the retail sector in both income and job creation if spending on gambling on pokie machines was halted.

The report claims that this extra retail spending would generate an additional 1,127 full-time equivalent jobs for 1,724 workers, along with an additional $58m of GST revenue and additional income tax of $7m from the retail spend.

What the report is lacking, however, is any consideration of the economic value currently generated by the gambling sector – in fact, the report specifically acknowledges that this was outside its scope. It’s therefore a serious misrepresentation of the net value of such a move, given it takes no account of the value that would be lost.

In the end, what the Salvation Army and Problem Gambling Foundation are saying, is: let’s take money – and jobs – away from the charity and not for profit sectors – health and rescue, education, community and social support services, environment, and arts and heritage – and give it to the commercial sector. It’s an odd stance for a community organisation like the Salvation Army to take.

In a rather naïve statement, the CEO of the Problem Gambling Foundation (Scoop, 10 August 2020) seems to think that the retail sector would then channel their increased profits into things like sports sponsorship. Many of our retail businesses – particularly in the increasingly popular online retail sector – are owned by overseas interests, for a start.

The press release also disingenuously refers to 60% of the revenue from pokie machines going towards the costs of running the system (with the remaining 40% being the returns to the community).

In fact, the community benefit is much more like 80%, with the approximately 40% share that makes up the various taxes, duties and GST in effect also being a community contribution, going into the public purse to contribute to public good. The actual ‘running of the system’ is only about 20%.

And let’s not forget that this 20% also represents money to businesses – local hospitality businesses, trusts, equipment providers and technicians – and a significant number of jobs in our cities, towns and communities.

The report – and the subsequent reporting of it – also fails to address the freedom of New Zealanders to do what they want to with their discretionary spending. Ministry of Health data indicates that over 1.8 million adult New Zealanders enjoy spending their money on the pokies, Lotto, Instant Kiwi, sports and track betting and other forms of gambling. That spending provides them with entertainment, relaxation and social interaction.

Those benefits would be lost if people were not able to spend their money on gambling – all to deal with the tiny (less than 0.5% of the population) number of people who have a gambling problem. The laws and regulations and the measures that have been introduced by the sector are more than adequate to protect and support this small number.


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