Gaming machines in Dunedin are making more than $17million profit a year despite a drop in the number of machines and venues.
Department of Internal Affairs data reveals the 412 gaming machines in 31 venues across the wider Dunedin area made more than $17.05million profit in the 2017-18 financial year.
The profit from the Dunedin machines was up nearly $75,000 from five years ago, despite there now being 70 fewer machines in seven fewer venues.
The Dunedin figures mirror a national trend.
The 15,420 gaming machines in 1140 venues in New Zealand made nearly $895million profit.
Problem Gambling Foundation Dunedin counsellor and public health promoter Fiona Cambridge, of Dunedin, said people affected by problem gambling contacted her for support. Often someone close to a problem gambler would contact her after realising money had gone missing or a new bank account had been opened.
“The impact on them is huge.”
Problem gambling affected up to six people close to them, Ms Cambridge said
Often gamblers contacted her “after being found out” or on the realisation “things have
got pretty bad, pretty fast and they want to stop”.
Some had lost a job, a relationship or a home due to gambling.
The profit made from gaming machines in Dunedin was “startling”, she said.
Many of the machines operated in the poorest parts of Dunedin and had a negative consequence on the city’s “most vulnerable” people.
“We would love to get those machines out of the areas where it’s impacting on people the most.”
Addiction was indiscriminate.
“It doesn’t care where you’re from, how much money you’ve got, what colour your skin is or what kind of education you’ve had.”
The ages of a gamblers she worked with ranged between 18 to late 60s, men or women.
Of any form of gambling, gaming machines did the most damage because of their ability to “hook” people as the possibility of a win was more immediate than from other forms of gambling.
The Problem Gambling Foundation provided a free and confidential service and counselling helped identify why gambling “had a hook in”a person.
Ms Cambridge applauded the council for adopting an “awesome” city-wide sinking lid policy for gaming machines.
In March, Dunedin City councillors voted unanimously to adopt a new policy meaning the council will not allow an increase in the number of gaming machines in the city.
It also bans any new gambling venues and prevents existing outlets from relocating.
South Dunedin has had a sinking lid policy since 2013, which has led to a 21% reduction in the number of gaming machines.
More than 50 public submissions were made on the proposal, 35 of which supported the change.
The policy was opposed by gaming trusts which administer the machines and some of the sporting and community groups receiving money from those trusts.
A Department of Internal Affairs spokeswoman said at least 40% of gaming machine profits must be returned to the community.
The department could not provide The Star with information on how much had been returned to Dunedin.