Each year, officials in New Zealand take time to review pokies spending across the island nation. Based on the results from non-casino gambling, they may find it necessary to continue cutting back on poker machines, increase funds for problem gambling programs, or just leave well enough alone. This year’s assessment confirmed a 2% increase in pokies spend, but they don’t seemed too alarmed by it.
For more than 10 years, expenditures on poker machines in pubs and clubs have generally been on the decline, thanks to a “sinking lid” policy that’s significantly reduced the number of gaming devices across the country. Despite that, this year’s hike in pokies spend didn’t come as a shock. In fact, you could say it just makes sense.
It just so happens, New Zealand saw a 2% increase in population across the island, which is directly in line with the 2% rise in wagers on the pokies. More people means more players, and more money filtered into the machines.
Rise in Pokies Spend Pinned on Population Growth
According to reports from the Internal Affairs Department, which is responsible for casino and non-casino gambling regulation on the island, Kiwis spent $828.1 million on the pokies in 2015. That represents an increase of $16.7 million (2%) compared to the $811.4 million New Zealanders pumped into the pokies in 2014.
The reasoning that population growth is largely responsible for the boost in wagers on poker machines was further substantiated by territorial expansion. Spend on pokies rose higher in areas where the population growth was greater. Reports indicated a higher rate of gambling in pubs and clubs in the cities of Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland, where the annual population grew 6.9%, 4.6% and 4.5% respectively.
Regions with lower or static populations had equivalent results. Wellington, for example, saw no significant change in poker machine revenue, while Christchurch saw a decrease of 3.1% in pokies spend. In Christchurch, reconstruction from the devastating earthquake in 2011 is still underway, but with a majority of the restorations now complete, the number of workers has dropped.
New Zealand’s Fewer Pokies Law Working
$828.1 million may seem like an awful lot of money to be spending on non-casino gambling, but that figures is still way down from those experienced more than a decade ago. In 2004, when the local spending topped the one-billion mark ($1.04b) on poker machines, New Zealand officials knew it was time to take action.
They imposed a “sinking lid” program on all non-casino gambling machines across the state. Determined to decrease the number of pokies available to residents, many licenses renewals were declined, and those that were approved came with stipulations that they could not house as may poker machines as the previous license allowed.
Thanks to that program, in the last 12 years, New Zealand has seen the number of pokies in pubs and clubs drop from a staggering 25,221 to a moderate 16,393. That number continues to decline with each passing year.
However, officials originally thought the amount of money spent on poker machines would fall equally with the number of machines eliminated from the area. While spending did drop a notable 20.4% from $1.04b to $828.1mm since then, it’s not exactly a parallel comparison to the 35% drop in poker machines.