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About 10,000 New Zealanders committed gambling related crimes last year, according to new Ministry of Health funded research.
This mainly involved stealing and fraud to fund gambling and included an estimated 10 percent of all pokie players.
The findings are part of a report - Assessment of the Social Impacts of Gambling in New Zealand - produced for the ministry by the research arm of Massey University. More than 7000 people were interviewed by telephone.
Of those who admitted to criminal activity, 25 percent said they would not have done so if they had not been gambling.
The heaviest gamblers were men aged 18 to 35 with Maori and Pacific Islanders being over represented. They were likely to be single, either sick or unemployed, with only high school qualifications.
The report said each gambler affected up to eight other people. It noted that past research found that the majority of people seeking help for problem gambling were pokie machine users. Of these the majority were women, while men were more involved with casino gambling, track and sports betting, Lotto and scratchies.
There were significant correlations between the extent of a person's gambling and poor physical and mental health, poorer relationships with family and friends, work performance and overall standard of living.
"The pokie machine industry targeted the poorest suburbs and spent millions of dollars on making the machines as appealing as possible with disastrous consequences to families and the wider community," says David Coom, Communications Director, Problem Gambling Foundation.
"The social cost to all concerned is very high, but there is also an additional burden to all New Zealanders in picking up the costs associated with these gambling products through treatment costs through health, and the Corrections system, to name just two," says David Coom.