Opportunity to speak out over pokies

By Nick Walsh

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Napier and Hastings residents are being canvassed for their opinion of gaming machines.

Councils in both cities have accepted public submissions to draft policies controlling the number of gambling venues and gaming machines.

Both drafts maintain a status quo "sinking lid" approach to Class 4 gambling machines.

The policy aims to gradually reduce gambling harm by not granting consent to any venues not already operating gaming machines.

Napier's Maraenui suburb is an area of concern in one of 12 public submissions on the policy draft received by the council.

Annette Harris, manager for problem gambling service provider Te Rangihaeata Oranga Trust, said she had concerns there were too many gaming machines in Maraenui.

Golden Chance TAB in Maraenui's Bledisloe St shopping centre has 18 pokie machines.

"They shouldn't be there at all. For a community that has the lowest employment rate and the lowest income, it doesn't make any sense," said Ms Harris.

The Te Rangihaeata Oranga Trust completed a submission to the council which outlined its concerns about Maraenui. A source, who did not want to be identified, said she was concerned the Maraenui TAB gaming machines "suck a lot of money out of a very impoverished area".

Maraenui is rated 10 on the New Zealand deprivation index which indicates the 10 per cent most deprived areas in New Zealand.

According to Problem Gambling Foundation director Philip Townshend, New Zealand has a high concentration of gaming machines in high deprivation areas.

Napier is ranked 24 out of 73 territorial authorities in the country in respect of the number of non-casino gaming machines per resident.

Regulatory services manager Michael Webster said the public submissions contained "a mixture of view points".

"It comes down to the community making a call about how many pokie machines they are happy to have in the area," he said.

The Napier draft policy proposes to restrict the number of pokie machines in Napier from 350 to 300 and the number of gaming venues in the area to 20.

Under the draft policy, venues wishing to relocate can re-apply for Class 4 Gaming Consent approval providing the new premises have no more than nine gaming machines.

Hastings has received 12 submissions to its policy.

Senior environmental planner for Hastings District Council Catherine Boulton said some minor wording amendments had been made to the original policy to provide "greater clarity" and to accommodate proposed zone changes that may result from the district plan review.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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