When local authorities tighten gambling regulations, player losses at the pokie machines are reduced.
Around 10 percent of the New Zealand population is impacted by problem gambling. Those impacts include poor health, psychological distress, financial difficulties and strained interpersonal relationships.
AUT's NZ Work Research Institute (NZWRI) has just released a report, "Capping problem gambling in NZ: the effectiveness of local government policy intervention". Commissioned in 2020 by the Ministry of Health, the report compared the outcomes of communities that adhered to the minimum requirements of the Gambling Act of 2003 and those that put in place stricter regulations.
The Act limited the number of pokie machines in pubs and clubs (so-called non-casino establishments). The Act required each territorial authority (TA) to establish local policies to regulate the number of pokie machines within their own communities.
The report finds that when communities went above and beyond the legislative requirements of the Act, both the availability of pokie machines in a community and the amount of money players lost dropped significantly. In fact, player losses fell by between 10 and 14 per cent in the first two years of implementation.
Head of NZWRI and project lead, AUT Professor Gail Pacheco, says the research highlights the importance of policy evaluation.
"The Gambling Act of 2003 was an attempt to minimise the impact of problem gambling and facilitate community involvement in decisions about the supply of gambling. Pokies, which are highly accessible because they are so widely available, can inflict excessive harm that goes beyond the individual gambler," says Professor Pacheco.
NZWRI research fellow Dr Christopher Erwin, who led the empirical research, says the results deliver clear evidence about how local authorities can reduce problem gambling in their communities.
"Our study shows that tighter restrictions imposed by local authorities help reduce harm from problem gambling. The findings provide an evidence base for local policymakers to draw on," says Dr Erwin.