Last year was a rough one for gambling industries around the globe. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, casinos were shutting down for months at a time and bringing in zero revenues. However, for gambling operators in New Zealand, it seems the effect was just the opposite. In 2020, residents of New Zealand spent more on pokie machines than ever before. The numbers were staggering consider the region was affected by the pandemic, job loss, and lockdowns.

Details of 2020

The Department of Internal Affairs recently provided figures detailing the gambling spend on pokie machines in New Zealand. Last year, the amount spent in the final quarter was equal to every adult in the region spending $204.

Quarterly spend for December was the highest of the year, at $252 million. A total of 14,781 pokie machines were played outside of casinos. This was the highest total for the industry since 2007. The results were unexpected due to the circumstances last year.

Chris Thornborough, the director of gambling for the Department of Internal Affairs, commented that the pokie money has been tracked through COVID and they knew it would be impacted. However, there was a surprising bounce-back when the restrictions on gaming were eased.

When looking at overall revenues, annual profits were down at $128 million. However, that was due to the pandemic shutting down clubs, pubs, and casinos. Online gambling participation was up as the Lotto saw $631 million in tickets purchased last year. This was an increase of 13%.

Community Boost

The laws of New Zealand place 40% of poker machine proceeds towards grants for local communities. Peter Dengate Thrush, a chairperson for the Gaming Machine Association commented that the increase in gambling at the end of the year was a nice boost for communities. A total of $300 million in grants were provided to the community in 2020. The money was provided for sport, cultural, and art needs.

It seems that as people were locked inside their homes, they were unable to go out and spend money. Once the restrictions eased, people began enjoying entertainment, such as playing the gaming machines. Players were not shy about spending money on these games and did so in record numbers.

On the downside, more money was spent online, with a large portion going towards offshore and unregulated sites. This type of gambling does not provide a local return, as it is not taxed. So this was the main negative when it came to the time of lockdown in the country.