David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Council backs pokies harm reduction bill

Photo / Christine Cornege
Photo / Christine Cornege

Mayor agrees local bodies need control of venue numbers, but not gambling funds

Plans to restructure the pokie industry and allow local councils the power to drive down the number of gambling venues have won the support of the Auckland Council.

But it has rejected the idea of local body politicians being given the ability to handle the distribution of funding from the $850 million industry.

The council has lent its weight to a proposed law change that aims to reduce the harm caused by poker machines in the community.

The council submission came after a month's consultation across Auckland on changes proposed in Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell's private member's bill. The city has about 23 per cent of the nation's non-casino gaming machines, which are the only type affected by the new law.

The commerce select committee is preparing to hear submissions on the bill, including a number from clubs and sporting organisations told by gaming trusts that they face losing money if the law is changed.

Mayor Len Brown said he was supportive of the intent behind Mr Flavell's bill. "The over-proliferation of pokie machines in suburban environments is not good."

The council submission said it believed reform of the pokies sector was "urgently required".

The council supported Mr Flavell's plan to give local councils greater control over gaming venues, including the power to reduce the number in its area.

It described the changes as a "toolkit" that local authorities could use to reduce the harm caused by gambling.

The submission also backed plans to restructure the way funding was delivered through gaming trusts. It said there were "less scrupulous trusts" that acted at the bounds of the law - and some that were outside it.

The present regulatory powers rested with the Department of Internal Affairs, which had prosecuted rule-breakers but not "cleaned up" the sector, the submission said.

It rejected Mr Flavell's proposal to put funding distribution in the hands of local body politicians.

Mayor Brown said: "I wouldn't want that responsibility. I would have every man and his dog banging at the door - and you would always be open to accusations of pork-barrelling."

The council also backed the proposal to ban payments of pokie money to horse racing and stake money at race events.

Gaming machines per area
(for a complete list of gaming machines see document at top right)
Auckland 1037 (99 venues)
Franklin 238 (19 venues)
Manukau 943 (67 venues)
North Shore 638 (45 venues)
Papakura 212 (13 venues)
Rodney 323 (25 venues)
Waitakere 478 (37 venues)

- NZ Herald

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