Charities fear pokie funds cut

By Carly Gibbs

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Tauranga charity organisations have found themselves with torn allegiances - supporting problem gamblers to stop but desperately needing their money.

Tauranga's Riding for the Disabled said a proposed gambling bill could see them thrust into financial ruin.

The organisation is one of many which is fearful the money it relies on from gaming trusts could be slashed under a bill that gives councils and the public power to cut the number of poker machines in their area.

The Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill was first tabled in 2010 but resurfaced as the Government negotiated a deal involving more pokies at SkyCity Casino. The bill applied to charitable gaming machines, not to casinos.

Fundraising manager at Riding for the Disabled, Katharine Birks said SkyCity gave 1 per cent of its profits to the not-for-profit sector, while gaming trusts gave 37 per cent.

Ms Birks said roughly 40 per cent of the RDA's income came from gaming trusts and without it, the organisation would not have been able to open its new indoor arena, valued at $1.4 million.

Funding could be sourced from other areas but it wasn't likely to be as significant, she said. "The Government does not support capital expenditure at all."

About 70 people attended a Tauranga meeting on the issue hosted by Pub Charity and held at Hotel Armitage on Tuesday night. Ms Birks said at select committee stage the bill passed 83 votes to 7, with only New Zealand First voting against it.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard said the vote should not be decided along party lines. Along with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, he argued that the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill was a "moral" or "sin" issue which should be decided by a conscience vote. Chief executive officer of Tauranga RDA, Kat Macmillan, said the fact it got so much support was of "huge concern".

Research had shown that compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand had a "relatively small" gambling problem and secondly, taking away a certain number of machines was unlikely to to stop gamblers, who Mrs Macmillan believed could gamble online, where there was no control. Limited funds to charities would equal lesser services to the community, she said.

Submissions to the bill closed on June 21.

"I hope that the not-for-profit sector will speak out about this because the community needs our support," she said.

Other charity organisations agree. Fundraising manager for the Tauranga SPCA, Dorothy Forbes, said at least 50 per cent of its funds came from gaming trusts.

"It's got the potential to impact the viability of all not-for-profit organisations. Money is becoming shorter and trusts are finding it difficult to meet the demands."

She feared that handing power over to the council could see them charge fees for administering distributions and for the regulation of the machines.

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand chief executive officer Paul Dalton said his organisation, like all charities, was concerned about the issue the bill was trying to address, but was "very concerned" about the flipside as well.

"It certainly has the potential to be significant and have a material impact on the programmes we run at local level," he said.

Pub Charity chief executive officer Martin Cheer said if the bill was successful it would "politicise the whole funding stream," where at the moment it was handled independently and with success.

However, chief executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation Andree Froude told the Bay of Plenty Times the real addiction in New Zealand was the "unhealthy reliance" on funding from gaming trusts.

The shift needed to move from where the money was going to where it came from, she said. "Forty per cent of the money lost on pokies comes from people with a gambling problem."

Under the new bill at least 80 per cent of pokie funds generated by gambler losses, would be returned to the community they come from.

MONEY FACTS



  • There are 47 gaming trusts in New Zealand and the major ones are Pub Charity, the Lion Foundation, New Zealand Community Trust, and the Southern Trust.


  • In 2011, 191 donations totalling $1,504, 907 went to Tauranga charities from Pub Charity alone. Sport got $498,053; education $232,872; community $396,507; health and emergency services $377,467.


  • A total of $260 million is generated every year from the industry as a whole and given to New Zealand charities. Another $40 million is generated from clubs and the Government receives $300 million in tax.

Source: Pub Charity

- Bay of Plenty Times

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