Gambling impacts individual communities differently and this is precisely what happens in the case of South Waikato in New Zealand. The district has been heavily influenced by the gambling which has taken a turn for the worse, leading to financial morose and a variety of issues in the population.
South Waikato Bears the Brunt of Problem Gambling
Now, a new survey has indicated that people in the South Waikato community lost more than $8 million between 2020 and 2021. This, locals have confirmed, has had devastating consequences on families. The money was lost on Class 4 Pokies machines for the fiscal period and across the 160 available machines in the region.
More people stepped up and spoke to Stuff, a local media. One unanimous local said that she had witnessed the devastating consequences of excessive gambling in her community first-hand. She also said that her parents were gamblers and she became aware of the damage that this environment did to her only when she grew up.
Having pokies in the district has proven too difficult for the interviewed woman. She told the media what those were:
“’I’m a grown woman now and this issue has always existed here for us. It isn’t getting better; it has increasingly gotten worse over time. I’m sure pokies have economic benefits but it is devastating families here.”
Anonymous victim of the proliferation of gambling in South Waikato, NZ
Independent experts on problem gambling tend to agree with the problems reported by locals who are disproportionately impacted by the proliferation of pokies. Gambling and problem gambling in particular has been tied to a higher incidence of fraud, child neglect, job loss, relationship fallout, and even suicide.
In fact, in the United Kingdom, for example, out of all addictions, gambling has the highest rate of suicides because of how severely it may impact a person’s life over a short time. According to a study, 49% of the people who gamble at pubs experience gambling harm, which could lead to more serious issues.
The woman Stuff spoke to wished to see a time when the South Waikato district and community would no longer have to deal with pokies. However, there are no immediate plans to suspend the licenses of venues that offer gambling machines.
In March, a self-confessed gambling addict criticized the safety measures in place after he was allowed to repeatedly enter the SkyCity Casino in Auckland and continue gambling even though he was self-excluded. The exclusion included both casinos and pubs that have pokies. However, the exclusion seemed to fail as the person was able to spend eight hours at a time playing at the machines.
Pokies in pubs have proven to be some of the biggest problems and enforcing self-exclusion manually is difficult if not impossible. That is why the job is left to facial recognition software, but with only 15% of the available pokie machines offering this feature, stories like those are very common. For the people of South Waikato, the evidence is inescapable.