Gaming grants 'blood money'

By Mike Barrington


The Northland Urban Mission and similar groups don't apply for grants derived from gambling because they consider it "blood money", the Whangarei District District council has heard.

The statement was made by mission representative Tim Howard when the council on Wednesday heard 23 submissions on proposals to change the district's pokie machine gambling from a sinking-lid to capped policy. The council proposals also cover venue policy relating to sport and race betting in premises owned or leased by the New Zealand Racing Board.

A review of both policies is required every three years and the council received 262 written submissions on the pokie machine policy and five on the board venue policy. The council will consider the submissions on March 13 and adopt its final policies on March 27.

Mr Howard said the mission wanted the council to continue with the sinking-lid policy, which reduced the number of gaming machines in the district. A capped policy effectively normalised pokie machines, which dragged millions of dollars annually out of needy people.

"The purpose of the Gambling Act is not legalising gambling to support business, but that seems to underpin the proposed capped policy," Mr Howard said.

Paul Berk, of Whangarei, asked Deputy Mayor Phil Halse, who was chairing the submissions hearing, whether he had declared an interest as the chairman of the Northland Rugby Union, which had benefited from gambling grants. Cr Halse said the meeting was hearing submissions, not making decisions.

Mr Berk said getting money off poor people through gambling and giving it to those better off was a disgrace.

Jarrod True, for the NZ Racing Board, said racing was a key part of the community that made a $12.68million value-added contribution to the Northland economy. The board invited the council to proceed with its proposed separation of the TAB board venue and gaming machine policies and retain the status quo of two TAB board venues in the district, he said.

The Pub Charity manager for the Upper North Island, David Gibson, supported a capped pokie policy because it provided controlled environments for gambling and "supported employment and business vitality".

Fewer gambling machines would encourage people to gamble online, which was unregulated and untaxed, he said, adding 36 per cent of gross Pub Charity revenue went to the Government and the millions it distributed as grants were critical to many community groups.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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