Staggering statistics, Samoan gambling epidemic in NZ

The statistics are staggering. In Manukau where the majority of Auckland’s 78,000 Samoan population live, gamblers spent around NZ$16 million (T$27.2m) - NZ$15,994,318 to be precise - at the pokie machines from January to March 2012.

That is about 25 percent of all gambling machine takings for the entire Auckland region, excluding the SkyCity. For the Manukau suburb of Manurewa alone, more than $3 million was taken by 162 pokie machines in eleven venues during that period. The figures disclose that 45 percent of problem gamblers of Pacific origin are Samoans, 20 percent are Tongans, and 18 percent are Cook Islanders.

They also say that the average Pacific gambler spends about $13,468 a year on pokie machines. Released by New Zealand Statistics, these statistics were revealed to the Sunday Samoan last week by the Samoa manager of the gambling watchdog, Pasifika Ola Lelei Programme (POLP), Mr Sunita Nua.

POLP is the gambling intervention programme arm attached to the non-government organization South Seas Health Care Trust established in February 1999. POLP’s primary mandate was to help Pacific families suffering from the atrocious ramifications of gambling.

According to Mr Sunita, a major part of their work is to also offer advice and assistance to those who are addicted to pokie gambling in the hope that they would abandon their addiction.

Mr Sunita though is not mincing words when he says problem gambling in Auckland’s Pacific community is devastating. He says that in a community with a strong Samoan presence, where more than a hundred Samoan churches are scattered in the suburb of Manurewa alone, the idea that problem gambling is flourishing in epidemic proportions is rather disturbing. “Gambling is a drug,” Mr Nua, who is Samoan, told the Sunday Observer.

“There is no other label for it except it is a sickness and people are addicted to it. “I’ve seen its devastating effects on the Pacific community here in Auckland and it is very sad.”

He vowed that the Pasifika Ola Lelei Programme, one of only two such programmes servicing the South Auckland community will keep on trying its best to help where it can.


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