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People in New Zealand spent NZ$2.63bn (US$1.81bn) on the four main types of gambling in the 2020/21 financial year, according to new data released by the country’s Department of Internal Affairs.

Spending on all forms of gambling increased by 17% from the previous financial year, with spending on pokies – outside of casinos – increasing by 23% to NZ$987m.

The NZ$987m total is the highest that Class 4 gambling (pokies in pubs, clubs and TABs) has been in five years.

A government review, announced by Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti, is now underway, aiming to target and reduce harm experienced by people who use pokies.

Problem Gambling Foundation Spokesperson Andree Froude has welcomed the review, but expressed concern at the rising levels of gambling spend.

“It certainly shows that Kiwis returned to gambling after the lockdown restrictions ended, spending the equivalent of NZ$730 for every adult in the country,” said Froude. “The spend on pokies in Aotearoa is fast approaching NZ$1bn and that is money coming out of some of our poorest communities.

“Over 60% of pokie venues are situated in medium high to very high deprivation areas so the money being lost is coming from people who can least afford to lose it.”

Froude added: “Gambling harm is a serious social issue in this country, disproportionately impacting Māori, Pasifika and Asian communities. Class 4 pokies are the most harmful form of gambling with nearly 50% of people seeking help for gambling citing pokies in pubs, clubs and TABs as their main form of gambling.”

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