This week the Department of Internal Affairs achieved a successful prosecution of four men and an incorporated society for misusing the proceeds from pokie machines. They will be sentenced in the new year.
Hāpai Te Hauora says the case demonstrates the need for tougher measures to ensure misused funds are returned to the communities they came from.
"Our people have been ripped off twice by this scam," says Haylee Koroi, Public Health Advisor in the Preventing Gambling Harm service at Hāpai. "South Auckland has a higher density of pokie machines compared with more affluent parts of our city, and yet they receive a small proportion of proceeds from pokies. Community funding from pokies is meant to return some of the money which is taken out of families’ pockets, but it has been shown to take money out of poor communities and redistribute it to the wealthy. Then we see a case like this where criminals are stealing even more from the community and it makes you wonder when the exploitation will end."
Problem gambling has been linked with poor mental and physical health, and affects Māori and Pasifika more severely than others; there are persistently high rates of problem gambling and relapse rates among Māori and Pacific communities despite an overall decline in gambling across New Zealand.