The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Gaming machine numbers continue to decline


Figures released today by the Department of Internal Affairs show that gaming machine numbers in pubs and clubs have continued to decline, a trend that started when the Gambling Act was passed in September last year.

Gaming machine operations licensed as at
Gaming machines
30 June 2003
22 September 2003
31 December 2003
31 March 2004
30 June 2004
1. “Corporate societies” are the organisations that own gaming machines.

The Director of the Department’s Gaming and Censorship Regulation Group, Keith Manch, said that what happens to the numbers of venues and machines in future will depend to a large extent on city and district councils’ gambling venue policies.

“Under the Act, councils have consulted with their communities to develop their gambling policies,” Mr Manch said.

“Communities can choose to prevent any new machines being installed and new venues opening, and can close down gambling operations at some existing venues.

“Alternatively, they can choose to impose no limits on possible growth in the number of venues or machines in their area; or they can have a policy between these two.”

Under the Act:
  • no machines can be added to any existing venue without first getting council consent
  • no new gambling venues can open without first getting council consent
  • councils could require societies operating at gambling venues that did not have a licence on 17 October 2001 (or that did have a licence then but did not have one for a period of six months or more after that date) to get rid of all their gaming machines, or to reduce the number of machines, at those venues.

Councils’ role is to decide on numbers and venue locations for their areas.

The Department’s role is to investigate the suitability of individuals and organisations that apply for a gambling licence. This includes:
  • ensuring that they will prevent people under 18 using gaming machines
  • ensuring they apply harm minimisation policies
  • checking for convictions
  • checking their history in the gambling sector
  • ensuring financial viability
  • receiving complaints
  • carrying out audits and investigations.

Fewer machines does NOT mean the community must get less money

Mr Manch said there is often confusion that fewer gaming machines must somehow mean less money for community groups.

The Department does not accept that fewer machines would inevitably mean less money for community groups. The reasons for this are:
  • the statistics do not show a direct link between the number of machines and societies’ profits
  • gamblers’ behaviour
  • there may be some scope for the sector to increase its efficiency.

From 1999 to 2003 the amount of money gamblers lost on average on each gaming machine increased by more than 43% (from $26,064 per gaming machine to $37,310). That is, New Zealanders gambled significantly more on gaming machines.

The Department has also seen that when it cancels or suspends gambling at a venue, gamblers often just go to another venue.

“Gambling on gaming machines seems to have become entrenched in New Zealand and gamblers’ desire to use them is the key factor in societies’ profits,” Mr Manch said.

Another important issue is what happens to those profits. In the 2003 financial year, societies spent more than $315 million on their costs to operate 25,000 gaming machines. That is, gamblers had to lose more than $315 million to cover the sector’s costs before a single dollar could be raised for community groups.

“It is quite possible that even if the amount of money lost by gamblers decreased, continued increases in the sector’s efficiency and integrity could mean more money going to community organisations,” Mr Manch said.

More details on

More detailed information about gaming machine numbers, including local figures, is available from the Department’s website at: Gaming Statistics

Media contact:

Keith Manch Phone 04 495 9449
Director Cellular 027 445 6420

Vincent Cholewa Phone 04 495 9350
Communications Advisor Cellular 027 272 4270