Council's sinking lid on pokie machines wins day

By Mike Dinsdale

The Whangarei Gambling Action Group has congratulated Whangarei District Council for keeping a "sinking lid" policy on the number of pokie machines in the district.

The council voted last week to go against advice from staff by retaining its sinking lid policy. Staff had recommended a capped policy, which would maintain a set number of pokie machines in the district when the council met to review its Class 4 Gambling Bylaw.

The council received 262 submissions on the bylaw, with 254 opposed to dropping the sinking lid policy.

Whangarei Gambling Action Group spokesman Tim Howard was delighted that the council listened to the public over the issue.

"We want to congratulate the council for taking a principled stand by maintaining the strongest control they can have over pokie machines in our communities," Mr Howard said. "We warmly acknowledge them for being responsive to the overwhelming majority of submitters who were clearly in favour of keeping the current sinking lid policy and thereby reducing pokie machine numbers."

He said some councillors said at the meeting they wished they could get rid of all pokies in the district altogether, something the group supported.

"Unfortunately this is not possible under current legislation. A capped policy that was voted down would inevitably have maintained current numbers of pokie machines. There was no call from the community for that," Mr Howard said.

"Pokies are well proven to be the most harmful form of gambling in our communities, and easy access to machines ensures more families will be harmed. Even councillors who opposed a sinking lid policy acknowledged the harm pokies cause."

Whangarei has 322 pokie machines at 24 venues. Punters dropped nearly $31.5 million into Northland pokie machines last year - about $86,000 each day.

- Northern Advocate

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