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Gambling For The Year Is Down Despite Spending Rebound

The Department of Internal Affairs has today released data showing that, while gambling for the year was down, spending for the December 2020 quarter rebounded significantly.

Peter Dengate Thrush, Chair of the Gaming Machine Association, which represents the sector responsible for gaming machines in hotels, taverns and member clubs, said that it was pleasing to see strong signs of economic recovery across New Zealand – as has also been reflected in better-than-expected GDP and employment figures, and year on year increases in retail spending for the quarter as well. He noted that Lotto also saw an increase for the period.

However, it is important to note that the increased gambling figures for the final quarter don’t paint the full picture – with 12 weeks of lockdowns in 2020 and no overseas tourists, the result for the year is still down significantly (13.9%) on the previous year. Further, the recent Auckland lockdowns will no doubt wipe out any gains made in the December 2020 quarter. This is bad news for the hospitality sector, and for the thousands of organisations whose valuable work in their communities is impacted by the reduced funding in what has already been a challenging year.

Mr Dengate Thrush also cautioned that while these figures show some positive signs for hospitality – one of the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19 – it’s important not to lose sight of the many hospitality venues in areas severely impacted by the lack of tourists. These businesses are still struggling, with business owners and staff at risk of losing their livelihoods.

He also expressed concern that the positive financial figures for just the final quarter of 2020 would bring out the tired old arguments around the need to reduce the number of gaming machines. More than 18 years of reductions in both machine numbers, and venues hosting them, have seen almost no impact on New Zealand’s problem gambling statistics, which are fortunately the lowest in the western world at 0.2%. He says it’s time for those who are entrusted with significant amounts of public funding to deliver sound, evidence-based strategies for managing the small percentage of players who experience harm from their gambling.

Mr Dengate Thrush noted:

2020 was a tough year for everyone – we were all affected in some way or another. I’m proud that the positive returns for gaming will enable a much-needed boost for New Zealand communities in the form of increased funding to health, emergency, education, environmental, heritage, sports and arts organisations all over the country”.

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