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Spending on pokie machines jumps

Published: 9:05PM Monday March 26, 2012 Source: ONE News

There's concern about a $26 million rise in pokie spending last year, despite there being fewer machines and places to play.

Recent figures show in 2011 more than $866 million was spent on gaming machines in pubs and clubs, up from $840 million in 2010.

The increase is despite a falling number of gambling venues and machines.

"That comes from our poorest communities and in areas that can least afford it," Graeme Ramsey from Problem Gambling Foundation told ONE News.

The foundation said more people were feeding the pokies in Canterbury after the earthquakes.

One gambler told ONE News that she turned to a life of crime to feed her habit.

"The colours, the sounds, the lights - I even remember the smell of some of the pokie rooms I've been in, that's how bad it got," said the self-confessed addict "Laura", who did not want her real name used.

"It's an addiction; you're fulfilling your needs."

For Laura pokie machines have become her dirty laundry; hooked the first time she ever played, and in five years she has lost a lot - her job, her friends, her partner, her young daughter and close to $200,000.

"I felt very suicidal," she told ONE News.

A lot of her gambling money was stolen, and 36 convictions later she has to meet a curfew and wear an ankle bracelet.

"I was in a trance, and I walked out of the pokies and I thought 'what the heck have I done' and I just kept doing it."

"It (gambling) turns you into a nasty person, a liar - I used to have to tell one lie after another when people would ask me where I've gone, what I've spent my money on".

Currently, people can ban themselves from gambling venues and the Government's looking to broaden that.

"T here will be a centralised or localised agents you can go to exclude yourself on the same basis in the same way, but across a number of venues," said Internal Affairs Minister Amy Adam.

National exclusion is also being considered, with Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell putting a bill that proposes changes to the gambling act before Parliament. The bill will allow local authorities to reduce or ban pokie machines from their region and introduce pre-commitment cards, where gamblers give themselves a cash limit for the day. The bill is awaiting its first reading.

The Government said it will be keeping a close watch on Australia, where pre-commitment cards are being trialled.