Calling for a pokie-free Tairāwhiti

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Elizabeth Crawford, chairperson of Kapai Kaiti in Gisborne, wants to rid Tairawhiti of pokie machines because of the harm they inflict on Māori whānau. 

This follows the closure of problem-gambling service Te Ara Tika which Crawford says leaves people with gambling problems without support.

Crawford has worked in problem-gambling services for 7 years.

“One person will be doing the $20 a week, next minute they're borrowing to keep that pokie play going, their children are going to need food so there's another borrow and so it sets up like that and it really destroys the family.”

However, not everyone agrees that only bad things come from pokies.

The Cosmopolitan Club is for members only and staff manage the use of the pokies.

Manager at the Gisborne Cosmopolitan Club, Debbie Light says, “We've sent people over to Australia for rowing, we've sent them to karate competitions, without gaming then we probably wouldn't be able to do those things for our members and the community.”

Crawford worked as a manager at the Ministry of Health (MoH)-contracted problem-gambling service Te Ara Tika, which has now closed.

Te Ara Tika worked with the Ka Pai Kaiti Trust to get rid of the pokies at the Kaiti Mall.

Crawford says Māori with gambling problems need face-to-face support.

“Tairāwhiti has a huge Māori population and it's culturally inappropriate to direct to a 0800 number,” says Crawford.

The MoH is hopeful that an alternative provider will be in place around Easter.

If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, telephone counsellors are available for free any time on 0800 654 655 or text Gambling Helpline on 8006.