New Zealand Gambling Spend on the Rise, with Slot Machines Leading the Way

New Zealand’s gambling industry enjoyed solid results in its most recent fiscal year. An update from the country’s Department of Internal Affairs shows a 17% year-on-year increase in gambling spend across the 12-month period.

A man plays a slot machine, or pokie, in New Zealand. Pokie gambling in the country is on the rise as a review of their popularity begins. (Image: Stuff)
A man plays a slot machine, or pokie, in New Zealand. Pokie gambling in the country is on the rise as a review of their popularity begins. (Image: Stuff)

Gambling has always been a standard component of countries’ economies. Evidence exists that shows it was part of the entertainment ecosystem in Mesopotamia as far back as 3000 BC. It’s not surprising, then, that it still enjoys a lot of interest today.

New Zealand has a lot of reasons to appreciate its gambling industry. The latest figures indicate that Kiwi gambling spend is on the rise, which means more money for the government, as well as the economy.

New Zealand Gambling Increases

For fiscal year 2020-21, according to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), gambling spend in the country was NZ$2.63 billion (US$1.81 billion). This is a 17% increase from the previous year and the highest amount from the last five years.

Much of that comes through slot machines not located in area casinos. This segment, which covers Class 4 operations at clubs and bars, rose 23% to reach $987 million (US$680.53 million).

The second-best improvement was in the TAB racing and sports betting segment. It trailed the slot segment by only 1%, collecting $385 million (US$265.45 million).

Casinos saw an increase as well. The segment reported an overall increase of 11%, as it took in $559 million (US$385.31 million). The improvement came even as New Zealand’s casinos were still dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and inbound travel complications.  

Rounding out the list is the lottery. New Zealand lotto products captured $694 million (US$478.44 million), or 10% more than they did in the prior year.

Some, like Problem Gambling Foundation Spokesperson Andree Froude, believe this indicates a problem in the country. The average breakdown of gambling spend per adult 18 years old or older, if each gambled, is $662 (US$456.78) for the year. That’s only about what someone spends on a new cell phone and a Starbucks coffee.

Gaming Machines Under Review

The DIA, as well as a number of politicians in the country, believe that the slot machine segment needs an overhaul. There is mounting concern that their existence threatens society. This despite studies that show that, in general, those who could fall into the “problem gambling” segment only comprise 1% of the population.

Still, it’s enough for the government to allocate more time and money to review slot machines. The DIA launched a review of harmful gambling that could ultimately lead to a reduction in the legal market.

As part of its review, the government is also accepting feedback. It launched a public consultation on slot machines, giving consumers a chance to weigh in on the subject. The consultation period began on March 17 and will run through April 28.

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