Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Gambling bill rewrite accepted by Flavell

Replacing Mr Flavell's provision for councils to reduce and eliminate pokies in some areas by allowing those operators to simply move elsewhere. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Replacing Mr Flavell's provision for councils to reduce and eliminate pokies in some areas by allowing those operators to simply move elsewhere. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell has accepted a major rewriting of his Gambling Harm Reduction Bill in order to secure National Party support for it, prompting the Green Party and Labour to pull their support and call for him to withdraw the bill altogether.

Mr Flavell's bill was reported back to select committee yesterday with all of its main provisions either removed or weakened.

Mr Flavell said he had not yet seen the report but did not expect to withdraw the bill. He and Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain are due to announce a broader suite of reforms tomorrow.

Prime Minister John Key said National had concerns about the original provisions and the impact they would have had on recipients of gaming funds. "There were a number of changes which were required for us to continue to support it."

Mr Key said National did not agree that 80 per cent of the funds should be distributed locally because that would affect funding for some nationwide groups.

However, he did believe that a higher proportion of pokies funds could be directed back into local communities than happened currently.

The NZ Rugby Union was among those who spoke out against the 80 per cent proposal - its chief Steve Tew had told the select committee it would force some clubs to fold altogether and others would have to increase fees by up to 500 per cent.

Labour's spokesman Trevor Mallard said National had effectively hi-jacked the bill to push through its own aims and Mr Flavell should withdraw it altogether.

He said replacing Mr Flavell's provision for councils to reduce and eliminate pokies in some areas by allowing those operators to simply move elsewhere while retaining the same number of pokie machines would only increase gambling.

National's changes mean that instead of requiring 80 per cent of pokie profits to go back into the community, the Government will be able to set an unspecified minimum percentage by way of regulation instead. National also baulked at a provision allowing local councils to reduce or completely ban pokies in areas where disadvantage and problem gambling were major issues. Instead, National will allow operators to move their machines to another venue.

National also rejected Mr Flavell's provision to exclude horse racing from receiving pokies funding and for local authorities to distribute pokies grants instead of gaming trusts.

Problem Gaming Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said the amendments to the bill meant it was effectively now mis-named because it would have little, if any, effect on problem gambling.

"I think what we are seeing is a proposed radical rewrite of the bill, and I don't think it will do a great deal for harm minimisation at all."

Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain said the changes were common sense and would allow for those operators to move from low socioeconomic areas to areas such as the CBD where the prospect of harm was lower.

- NZ Herald

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