The Problem Gambling Foundation says the national increase in spending on pokies could have been driven by the rise in spending in Christchurch and nearby regions, which accounted for over 50 percent of the total increase.
Figures released yesterday by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) show there has been a 9.4 percent increase in spending on pokies in Christchurch City on the previous year, 13.6 percent in Ashburton, 18.9 percent in Waimakariri and a 28 percent increase in Selwyn.
Kaikoura, Nelson, South Canterbury and the West Coast also showed an increase in spend over the previous year.
Tony Milne, Christchurch-based National Manager of Public Health at the Problem Gambling Foundation, says it is hardly surprising to see a spending increase in Christchurch and surrounding areas.
“We know that pokie usage increased dramatically in Christchurch after the September and February earthquakes, and 12 months later there are still a lot more people using pokies and spending more than pre-quake,” he says.
“The increase in areas surrounding Christchurch can probably be attributed to a population and pokie machine increase in those areas.”
“In Christchurch the increase could well be attributed to the incredibly stressful year we’ve had here. It’s no surprise that people here are looking for relief from that stress or using pokies as escapism.”
“Wine, chocolate, drugs, coffee, pokies – people in Christchurch are self-medicating”.
Tony Milne says disaster literature cautioned that we could expect an increase in addictive behaviour following traumatic events such as the Christchurch earthquake and ongoing after shocks.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean we will see a massive increase in people with gambling problems in Christchurch, it just means more people are gambling on pokies and more people are at risk of developing a problem,” Tony Milne says.
“If people think they or a loved one are spending more than they can afford on pokies we would encourage them to seek help. We can help them to ‘self-exclude’ from one or more venues or just listen and provide advice and support,” Tony Milne says.
If anyone needs help or wants to talk to someone about their gambling, please phone the Problem Gambling Foundation on 0800 664 262 or visit www.pgfnz.org.nz.