Gaming Machine ‘Sinking Lid’ Policy not working for New Zealand

11 August 2020

New analysis from DOT Loves Data shows New Zealand’s pokie machine spending continues to increase, despite the total number of gaming machines operating in New Zealand being on a steady decline since 2013.

Pokie machine numbers declining

The total number of class 4 pokie venues in New Zealand has declined from 1372 in June 2013 to 1078 by March 2020. The total number of machines has similarly declined from 17,631 in June 2013 to 14,828 by March 2020.

These figures show a 21% decline in the number of venues hosting pokies and a 16% decline in the total number of pokie machines being played.

Pokie machine revenue increasing

Despite this steady decline in numbers, pokie machine revenue continues to defy gravity. Spending figures to December 2013 showed Kiwis lost $206 million per quarter seven years ago. By 2020 the quarterly figure had increased to $242 million, an increase in the amount lost to 17.5%.

‘Sinking Lid’ not working

The new analysis shows the ‘Sinking Lid’ policy, used by many local government authorities to reduce gambling spend, is not working. The ‘Sinking Lid’ means the local council will not issue any new licenses for gaming machines, and gaming machines cannot be transferred to a new venue or owner if a pub or venue closes. The policy’s intention is to gradually reduce the number of gaming machines and the total spend, thereby also reducing gambling harm.


Correlation between Gambling and Deprivation

Dot Loves Data’s analysis also confirms a strong correlation between gambling and socio-economic deprivation. Our analysis shows that close to 75% of all gaming machine venues and gaming machines reside in the most deprived communities of New Zealand. Gambling spend in a highly deprived decile 10 community is also more than three times the spend evidenced in the most affluent decile 1 community.