We're all paying for pokie-related harm - Lance O'Sullivan

There are renewed calls for the Government to ban pokies and phase out all existing machines.

Northland GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan is leading the charge out of frustration at the effect they're having on residents in his home town of Kaitaia.

He told Three's The Hui the gambling machines prey on the most vulnerable.

"If New Zealand's keen to address child abuse, you've got address the drivers of child abuse - it's child poverty, and these machines are contributing to that."

Lance O'Sullivan.
Lance O'Sullivan. Photo credit: The Hui

Dr O'Sullivan blames pokies for a resurgence in abuse and poverty-related diseases in Northland. He wants the Government to act sooner, rather than later.

"Put your $2 where your mouth is - show us what you're going to do to get these out of my community."

Around $14 million was spent on pokies last year in the Far North - money that wasn't spent on helping children.

"We are paying for the child that ends up in the Kaitaia Hospital and gets helicoptered to Starship. We're paying for the kids who aren't going to succeed at school because they're hungry and they're sick. We as a society are paying for that."

The Problem Gambling Foundation says in wealthier areas there is one machine for every 475 people, but in poorer areas it's one machine for every 75.

Last year non-casino pokies made $870 million. That means each pokie machine earns well above the average wage of $56,000.

Millions are lost to pokies every year.
Millions are lost to pokies every year. Photo credit: Getty

Dr O'Sullivan was named New Zealander of the Year in 2014 for his efforts in rural health. He's being touted as a future political leader, but has yet to decide which party - if any - he wants to go with.

"I'm going out there to keep my options open, but more about seeing where that fit is," he told TVNZ recently.

The Hui / Newshub.