October 20, 2005
Zealand's poker machines snare lonely single women
published today in the Otago Daily Times reports that
30-something single women addicted to poker machines are the new face of
problem gambling in New Zealand, experts say.
Women account for more than half of New Zealanders with gambling problems,
compared with about 20% a decade ago, and are almost exclusively addicted
to pokies, the country’s longest-running study on the addiction shows.
Gambling researcher Professor Max Abbott said the group with the worst
incidence of pathological gambling were those aged between 25 and 35 and,
Prof Abbott, who has completed a seven-year study on gambling, said lower
wage earners once made up a large proportion of pathological gamblers but
this was no longer the case. Now, people from all walks of life were
Prof Abbott, of the Auckland University of Technology, said between 2% and
3% of New Zealanders were pathological gamblers, but up to 25% fell into
the unhealthy category of using gaming machines once a week or more.
Single people were more likely to let their attraction to gambling run
away with them without the presence of someone to curb their addiction,
Prof Abbott said.
Dr Sean Sullivan, director of the Auckland-based Abacus clinic, which
specialises in the treatment of addictions, said a large number of
pathological female gamblers were lonely women in their 30s who went to
bars looking for company but ended up addicted to poker machines.
They are desperately wanting company, but women who go to bars alone tend
to attract dodgy types, so they play a few games on the pokie machines and
they eventually get hooked, he said.
Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGF) chief executive John
Stansfield said the lure of poker machines to single women should not be
One 30-plus woman who attended a PGF group described to Mr Stansfield the
lack of alternatives for single women in bars.
Where can I go out in this city socially, all dressed up, and not look
like I’m trying to pull?
Mr Stansfield said there had been a significant increase in problem
gamblers in New Zealand since the introduction of pokies in bars, clubs
and casinos with the biggest impact now hitting women.
Pokie machines are the reason we have women with gambling problems today.
They single-handedly feminised gambling in this country, compared to the
old alternative of racing.
However, Prof Abbott’s study found 90% of people addicted to poker
machines conquered their problem within seven years. Of those addicted to
racing gambling, less than half overcame their problem within the same
Auckland and Christchurch remained the areas with the most new clients,
the statistics showed.