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Timaru struggles as pokie machines lead to problem gambling

November 17, 2022

Interview by Liam Hansen, adapted by David Liwei Shi 

The Problem Gambling Foundation’s Andree Froude says Timaru has an unhealthy reliance on pokie machines to fund local communities and sports groups. Photo: Canva.

Listen to the interview

The Canterbury city of Timaru is facing issues of problem gambling, and local district council laws remain unchanged as the issue goes unresolved. 

Minor changes are allowing new gambling venues to operate with a limit of seven pokie machines, reducing the previous number of 9 prior to the Gambling Act. 

But the Problem Gambling Foundation’s Andree Froude told 95bFM's The Wire that this is not enough to tackle the problem.

Froude said Timaru district councillor Peter Burt is content with current laws, and believes the machines help fund local communities.  

However, Froude thinks there is “an unhealthy reliance on pokie machines to fund local communities and sports groups.” 

Timaru tops the Canterbury region for the highest annual spend per person, averaging at around $280, when compared to the national average of $239. 

Froude cautioned that pokie machines as a “continuous form of gambling” could become a nationwide issue. 

“Child neglect, poverty, poor mental health, fraud, and crimes are committed because people are addicted to these machines.” 

Froude said Aotearoa needs to seek ethical forms of funding that don’t involve gambling money, and suggested a new policy that would not allow new gambling venues to open. 

“We have 32 councils around the country with a sinking lid policy."

She hopes Timaru will implement the same process to minimise the harm of problem gambling in that community. 

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air