Number of pokie machines in Māori communities ‘hugely disproportionate’

How to destroy indigenous communities


Northland doctor and political aspirant Lance O’Sullivan says urgent action is needed to rid New Zealand of pokie machines.


Earlier this year Dr O’Sullivan called for a ban on the machines, after witnessing the devastating impacts they had on his Northland community of Kaitaia. Dr O’Sullivan re-iterated that stance on Friday, and said he saw the harm of pokie machines reflected in poverty statistics, housing inequalities and mental health. He said it wasn’t just the problem gamblers who were suffering the effects, with one in five New Zealanders admitting they had been impacted by a family members gambling addiction. “We’re paying for the kids who aren’t going to succeed at school because they’re hungry and they’re sick. We as a society are paying for that,” he said. Ministry of Health Statistics from 2015 show that non-casino pokie machines are the primary mode of gambling for those with an addiction.

Hāpai te Hauora chief executive Lance Norman agreed with Dr O’Sullivan and said hugely disproportionate numbers of pokie machines in poorer communities meant Māori and Pasifika were unfairly targeted. “If you were to do an overlay of where all the pokie machines are, and if you were to do an overlay of the high-needs deprivation of Māori and Pacific whanau, you’d see a correlation between the location of low socio-economic families an pokie machines,” he said. Last year the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand reported there was one pokie machine per 465 people in wealthy areas. In poorer communities, there was one for every 75.

Mr Norman said the government had a responsibility to implement strategies aimed at reducing the harm. “That would include taking venues away from high-needs populations where there are high numbers of Māori and Pacific people, actively having a ‘sinking lid’ policy that says when you close a venue you will not re-open that venue and you will not relocate those pokie machines,” he said. “In areas where there is huge correlation between gambling addiction and health and education harm, there needs to be an active removal of the machines by setting a timeline which says by a certain time … these venues will no longer be operating.”


Reference list: Kate Doyle. 2018. Retrieved from

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