Rise in pokie spending could signal money laundering

A sharp rise in pokies spending in New Zealand has prompted calls for an investigation into whether there is a link to money laundering, local media reports.

Earlier this month, data from the Department of International Affairs (DIA) showed that New Zealanders spent $223.6 million in non-casino gaming machines in 16Q4, hitting a record quarterly high since the last quarter of 2008.

Annual spend hit $858.1 million, up 3.6 percent compared to the full year 2015, the largest annual spend since 2011.

However, the number of gaming machines fell 11 percent since 2011, according to reports, with 16,148 pokie machines (ex-casinos) by the end of 2016.

“We know that participation is down and that spend is up, and spend correlates with harm, so it is something the government needs to look into very seriously,” said Paula Snowden, chief executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation.

While some of the increase in bet size is probably linked to a growing economy, this was unlikely to account for all of the increase, she said. 

Snowden said some clients of the foundation had reported that they were given the money to do it “for a purpose.”

“It is a bit of a surprise. One would logically say if you reduce the number of machines the uptake will be down,” commented Peter Dunne, the Minister of Internal Affairs.