Disappointingly, but perhaps predictably, Tauranga City Council's decision this week to reduce the number of pokie machines per head of population fell short of an absolute sinking lid policy sought by the Salvation Army and the Problem Gambling Foundation.

The good news is the decision removes a cushion that allowed an additional 273 gambling machines to be installed in Tauranga.

The council voted 6-4 to lower the ratio of pokies to population, from one machine per 147 Tauranga people to one machine per 220 people.

This was close to the actual 541 pokies now operating in the city, whereas the old ratio allowed 821 machines.


It would have been good to see the council go a step further and adopt a sinking lid policy, which, councillor Steve Morris pointed out, would still take decades before it had any noticeable affect on gaming trusts.

He and three other councillors wanted an absolute sinking lid.

We all know the harm associated with problem gambling and the devastating effect it can have on families. We also know that the funds raised through gaming machines is distributed via grants to many community and sporting organisations.

In the past, some sports organisations have suggested they would struggle to survive without the funds generated by pokie machines.

A valid question, though, is how did they survive before these funds became available?

The reality is that a portion of the funds raised through gaming machines comes from people who can least afford it.

In my view, steps need to be taken to reduce the harm caused by pokie machines and the best way to do that is to reduce their number over time.

A staggered reduction in machines would allow organisations, who have become reliant on gaming funds, time to find alternative revenues.