Christchurch City Council maintains one of the most restrictive pokie machine policies in New Zealand, with the measures set to remain in place for another three years.
Because of the 'sinking lid' policy, no new licences allowing gambling in pubs and clubs can be approved, and the existing licences cannot be moved to another location. The policy has been in place since 2004 and is subject to renewal every three years.
Christchurch currently has 82 pub and club gambling venues and 1,291 pokie machines operating (which is fewer than the 2,158 machines operating back in 2004, and half the number of venues since that year).
According to a council staff report, despite the decrease in machines and venus, Christchurch still has more machines per capita than the national average. Data from the report shows Christchurch has 3.3 machines per 1,000 residents, Auckland has 1.9, and Wellington and Dunedin sit on the national average of 2.9 machines per 1,000 residents.
The same report said Christchurch was over-present in the statistics of people receiving treatment for gambling addiction and other gambling-related issues; it also showed that Christchurch accounted for 8% of New Zealand’s population (with 10% of the total number of gamblers who accessed help in 2020 being from the city).
Jarrod True, of the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand, argued that by limiting pokie machines the council was only limiting recreational players, as the number of online gambling users is going up. Therefore, restricting access to physical gambling does not stop people who are addicted because: “People will always find a machine to play if they are addicted to gaming.”