Pokies use 'tripled since quake'
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2011
A surge in gaming machine use at Christchurch's suburban bars is worrying problem-gambling groups.
Problem Gambling Foundation staff have visited 15 bars to see how many people are using pokies after the February 22 earthquake.
"What we observed in visiting those suburban bars is that they are incredibly busy. Right from the start of the day to the end of the day, they were pretty much full," spokesman Tony Milne said.
Staff visited bars in New Brighton, Hornby, Riccarton and Papanui, and as early as 11am all machines were being used, he said. Some bar managers reported that pokie expenditure had tripled since the quake. Part of the increased demand might be because many venues were closed, Milne said.
Despite the closure of about 25 per cent of pokie venues, pokie expenditure in Christchurch was up 3.2 per cent in the first three months of the year, he said. Some people might turn to pokies to escape stress and the group had heard of others playing in a bid to boost their income.
Salvation Army Oasis Centre spokesman Peter Jamieson said: "We saw the pattern after the September quake, and this quake caused a lot more stress in Christchurch and there's a real concern as to how we'll cope with the splurge."
The possible reopening of the Christchurch Casino this month could lead to more problems as some gamblers used only that venue, Jamieson said.
In a speech yesterday to the National Problem Gambling Provider Forum, Revenue Minister Peter Dunne warned of the need to help problem gamblers struggling to cope with the quake aftermath.
"I am not at all surprised that gambling on non-casino gaming machines in Christchurch has increased significantly since the quake, in much the same way that drinking issues seem to have risen, and even smoking cessation stalled," Dunne said.
"We are dealing with a lot of stressed people, and human nature can often take us to our weaknesses and frailties at times of extraordinary pressure and strain," he said.