A proposal to increase the number of pokie machines in Whangarei signals the start of a downward slide for families and the community, an anti-gambling lobby group warns.
The Gambling Action Group is alarmed that a change in the Whangarei District Council's gaming machine policy would see the machines moving into the district's suburbs.
A "sinking lid" policy is in place that would see gaming machines decrease over time once venues ceased operating. The council is seeking public feedback on a "capped policy" that would limit the number of machines at 335 - up from the 313 now operating at 23 venues around Whangarei.
The council believes that in the social and economic environment anticipated over the next three years that a capped policy will meet the purpose of the Gambling Act 2003 by continuing to control the growth of gambling, while going some way to preventing and minimising the harm caused by gambling including problem gambling.
But the group is concerned at more gaming machines to be relocated to venues closer to homes, schools and children.
"It signals the beginning of a downward slide and the good ground gained over the years in terms of reduced machines numbers will be lost," spokeswoman Ngaire Rae said.
The council says consideration has been given to both the positive economic and social benefit of gaming machines which generate business, funding for a large number of sporting and community groups, public health and social cost to those that suffer from gambling addiction, and the cost of problem gambling intervention services.
Gambling machines raked in $14.7 million in Whangarei in the year to September.