Ban pokies to reduce child poverty - Lance O'Sullivan to PM

A Northland community leader is challenging the Prime Minister to ban pokies if she's serious about reducing child poverty.

Jacinda Ardern has said child poverty is the reason she got into politics, and has even made herself the Minister for Child Poverty reduction.

Kaitaia GP and 2014 New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O'Sullivan says while her words are encouraging, brave and bold actions are needed.

In the year to June, pokie machines in the Far North District brought in $13.95 million. That's up nearly $800,000 on the previous year, when they pulled in $13.2 million.

"There are some real quick wins that could be achieved here - removing pokies out of communities such as Kaitaia  putting $14 million back into the hands and the mouths of families, that could be done with the stroke of a pen," says Dr O'Sullivan.

"Yes, there are a whole lot of big policy issues and intergenerational problems from poverty, but this is something that could be done really quickly that will actually save the lives of children living in poverty."

Dr O'Sullivan says the argument that pokies are tourist attractions is a lie.

"If you want to have them anywhere, then keep them in SkyCity. Don't bring them to places like the RSA at Kaitaia."

The Problem Gambling Foundation supports Dr O'Sullivan's idea. CEO Paula Snowden says it's clear that pokies target the poorest areas.

"In wealthy areas there is one pokie machine for every 465 people. In poorer areas there is one for every 75 people.

"This means that of the $890 million lost into the pokies last year, the majority came from pubs and clubs in areas that can least afford it." 

Ms Snowden says pokies generally just redistribute part of the money from the poor to the middle class through community funding grants.

 She wants limits set on the amount punters can spend on machines, and for facial recognition technology to be introduced to stop problem gamblers.