Experts are calling for a ban on electronic gaming machines in pubs and clubs across New Zealand.
While opening an International Gambling Conference in Auckland on Monday, Professor Max Abbott said there was an urgent need to address problem gambling.
Tackling the availability of electronic gaming machines was a key issue, the Dean of Health and Environmental Sciences at AUT said.
“We have pokies distributed like confetti in our communities.”
“Electronic gaming machines are incredibly widely accessible in pubs and clubs in New Zealand, and they’re heavily clustered in deprived communities.”
Abbott said the time had come to mandate government and local communities to remove electronic gaming machines to stem the damage they cause.
There has been unprecedented growth in commercial gambling in recent decades, despite research showing the magnitude of gambling related harm is similar to that of depression and alcohol misuse and dependence, he said.
Abbott was joined by keynote speaker, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, who highlighted the relationship between gambling and the day-to-day work of a GP.
“Pokies make my job harder,” O’Sullivan said.
There is a direct link between addiction to pokies and sick kids, he said.
“It’s bad enough that we have diseases of poverty in a first world country like New Zealand, but to see them exacerbated by pokies is extremely frustrating. This is the definition of a preventable epidemic.”
O’Sullivan said there was a “real need” for the political leaders of New Zealand to get behind problem gambling prevention.
There also need to be measures in place to ensure families are not continually exploited and “manipulated” by gambling companies, he said.
The 7th International Gambling Conference is hosted by the AUT Gambling & Addictions Research Centre and the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand.
The conference runs until Wednesday.