2020 was a terrible year for the gambling industry. The year saw the closure of most in-person betting venues, with players and operators going broke. But similar can’t be said for the New Zealand gambling market, at least after the latest gambling financial report was released. 2020 saw Kiwi players spend a fortune on pokie machines to set a new record. The staggering numbers came as a surprise, considering New Zealand was one of the worst-hit countries with Covid-19.
The Department of Internal affairs released the latest report on how much New Zealand players spent gambling in 2020. In the report, Q4 of the year saw every adult spend approximately $204 on pokie machines. It says that Kiwi punters blew around $252 million in the period between October to November 2020 poker machines. This amount was spent on 14,781 machines located outside casinos and is the highest since 2007.
However, the annual gambling profits plummeted a little bit in 2020 to $128 million. But that’s pretty much understandable as Covid-19 had necessitated the shutting down of casinos, pubs, and clubs. Spending on casinos decreased by 22%, TAB by 10%, and pokie machines by 18%. Nonetheless, online lotto gambling saw a 13% annual spending increase, with Kiwis spending $631 on lotto tickets.
According to the director of gambling at the Department for Internal affairs, Chris Thornborough, the numbers are pretty shocking in a year that many markets incurred unimaginable losses. He said: “We have been tracking the pokie money through Covid, and we knew there was going to be an impact, but we were surprised by the bounce-back once the pokie restrictions were eased. We didn’t anticipate that there’d be quite as vigorous a bounce-back as there was over the December quarter.
Meanwhile, these numbers got the anti-gambling crusaders worried, just as expected. The Marketing Director at Problem Gambling Foundation, Andree Froude, was quick to express her concerns. She said: “We would like to know where the money has come from.”
According to Froude, the majority of the pokie machines across the country are in poor neighborhoods. So, because 2020 was a challenging year for many, punters are not in a position to spend what they can’t afford to lose.
In an unlikely show of support, Peter Dengate Thrush, chair of the Gaming Machine Association, said that the recent Auckland lockdown and lack of tourists mean that Q4 gains would drop. Thrush was concerned that the results would increase the calls to reduce gaming machines. However, he argued that reducing the number of these machines wouldn’t eradicate problem gambling.
The New Zealand gambling laws state that at least 40% of all poker machine proceeds should go back to the local communities in grants. This means that high gambling profits will only boost the local NZ communities. According to Thrush, an average of $300 was injected back into the local community in grants. He explained that the money would help keep culture, sport, and art activities going in the country.
The numbers are definitely astonishing! Going by the 2020 figures, it seems every adult Kiwi spent $572 on gambling. Much of this amount was spent in the Q4 period of the year when Covid-19 restrictions eased. On the flip side, offshore online casino and sportsbook operators got a massive chunk of the gambling spending portion. Remember that online gambling isn’t taxable in NZ. That aside, the country’s regulated gambling industry is doing quite well during this pandemic period.