Too late for crackdown on gambling

By Doug Laing

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Whatever one's view of gambling, it's one of life's great mysteries that it is one of the major sources of funding our sporting and recreational pursuits.

Another is that without liquor-licensed premises we would not have the facilities and outlets in which this nationwide fundraising punt may take place.

It might be that no children would play sport, or there would be no holiday camps for potentially miscreant young teens.

Currently, it's part of a debate promoted by Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell's Gambling Harm Reduction Bill, proposing changes to the Gaming Act essentially aimed at providing local communities with more authority over where gambling machines are sited, and how the proceeds are used.

It's been through a first reading in the House, and a select committee report is expected mid-year, but in the meantime Hospitality New Zealand, representing pokies site-operators, and the Problem Gaming Foundation are locking horns on one or two issues relating to apportioning of percentages of each coin that goes through the slot.

These issues ignore the real issue, which is whether gambling should be used as such a major funding mechanism, the same issues as whether the tobacco should ever have funded sports and recreation. Ditto the liquor industry.

It's hypocrisy of an abject nature, if one were to accept that these three beneficent sources were all evils, or vices, and is born of eras past where Parliamentarians could not see their way to funding recreational activities of any sort.

It was late in the 1940s that our Parliamentarians also came to realise that most people seemed to like to gamble, albeit to varying degrees, and it was pointless having laws which outlawed the activities of normally law-abiding organisations as they went about raising funds for philanthropic or sporting purposes.

The horse, therefore, bolted one enormously long time ago, and unless governments address issues of how sports and recreation are funded, particularly at grassroots levels, changes to gaming legislation will forever be guided by whether the proceeds are adequate to cover the recreational and social needs that Government resources and other funding mechanisms do not.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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