Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Pokie bill would bring community sport to knees: coalition

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

A coalition of New Zealand's leading sporting organisations says a bill to reduce gambling will bring community sport to its knees and outweigh the good of helping problem gamblers.

The National Sports Organisations (NSO) Leadership Group sent a paper to sports groups last weekend in which it urged them to oppose a bill sponsored by Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell.

The document was leaked to the Green Party, which said a leading sports body should not be lobbying on behalf of pokie trusts.

The leadership group represents and provides funding to Athletics New Zealand, the New Zealand Rugby Union, Netball New Zealand and many other national bodies.

The group's chairwoman, Raelene Castle, said the document was a work in progress, and was not yet backed by members. "NSO has a concern for problem gambling ... but we do seem to be using a sledgehammer to solve this issue."

An NSO briefing paper sent to sports groups expressed concern about two key parts of the bill - a move to replace gaming societies with local committees, and the proposal to ensure 80 per cent of grants from gambling proceeds went back into the community where the money was lost.

At present, gaming clubs must give a minimum of 37 per cent of pokie proceeds to the community. Mr Flavell wants to ensure that 80 per cent of this allocation was injected back into the area where the pokie money was collected.

"It is inappropriate ... that money taken out of Kawerau ends up in Balclutha," Mr Flavell said.

The NSO briefing paper said this would severely limit sports organisations' ability to seek funding at a national level.

It concluded that the negative impacts of the bill on sporting groups would be "inversely disproportionate to the good that may be done by the bill to help problem gamblers".

Asked whether the NSO was comfortable with sports being subsidised by pokie proceeds, Ms Castle said: "Gambling is a reality in every society in the world. New Zealand has a fantastic and very unique way of distributing funds to make sure a lot of good comes out of that."

She hoped to gain the support of the NSO's members and take their concerns to the select committee.

Some gaming trusts donated up to 65 per cent of pokie proceeds to the community, much more than the 37 per cent minimum. But most of the large trusts gave around 40 per cent.

Two per cent of pokie proceeds went to a problem gambling levy.

The rest of the proceeds, once 35 per cent was deducted in tax, went to the trusts' administrative costs.

- NZ Herald

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