Reform of 'broken' system needed after New Zealand gambling spend hits record high - problem gambling expert

New Zealand's gambling spending has hit a record high - $252 million in just three months.

It's Aotearoa's highest quarter ever and it doesn't include Lotto, or casinos - it's just from pubs, clubs and TABs.

Andree Froude, a spokesperson for the Problem Gambling Foundation, told The AM Show it's a "huge" increase - and the money is coming from the pockets of those it's supposed to protect. 

"[Pokie machines] are there to raise money for our communities and that's the problem - 50 percent of venues are in our poorest suburbs."

The Department of Internal Affairs requires a minimum of 40 percent of pokie machine profits be donated to authorised community purposes.

If this is not met, Internal Affairs can revoke the venue's operating license. 

The funds vary each year, but totals more than $200 million annually. 

But that figure means little, if the money is coming from the pockets of those who need it most, Froude says. 

"People who are spending that money who can't afford to lose it," says Froude. 

And gambling can have a devastating impact on communities and families. 

"It can range from not being able to put food on the table, or send kids to school with lunch to the very severe - suicidal ideation, people losing their jobs, their homes."

She says the solution is to remove the pokies - and while they are declining slowly, they're still more prevalent in poorer communities.

"The people who live in those communities are four and half times more likely to argue about gambling or to have a problem related to money."

She says more research - particularly into online gambling -  is necessary but the model is fundamentally "broken".

"We need to look at alternatives for how we're funding our communities - we need to reduce the reliance we have on pokies because it's just a broken system."