The number of pokie machines in Tauranga is only going to get smaller.

From March 14, no new gambling machines or venues will be approved following Tauranga City Council's decision today to adopt a 'sinking lid' policy.

The policy is designed to effect a slow decline of gambling opportunities as venues shut or give up their machines.

Existing venues will, however, be able to relocate under strict conditions, especially in the poorest parts of the city.


Gambling venues must be at least 100 metres from residential areas with high social deprivation, as defined by a national index.

According to the most recent index, that would include the Matapihi and Yatton Park areas.

Councillors debated whether there was any strong evidence that a sinking lid policy have any significant

They noted there was nothing the council could do about online gambling.

A council survey of ratepayers in 2018 came out 63 per cent in favour of the sinking lid policy.

It also gained the support of former problem gamblers and addiction services.

Several community, social and sporting groups, however, opposed the sinking lid policy as they feared it would result in a reduction in funding from gambling trusts.

By law, the trusts must put a proportion of money from gambling back into the community it came from via grants.

The new regulations will be reviewed in three years, and an assessment made of the impact on funding for community organisations.

The council's staff would also look at whether new venues would be allowed to open in growth areas, such as Te Tumu in Pāpāmoa and Tauriko.

Vaughan Cruickshank, a former council employee and problem gambler, said the decision was a "positive step".

Cruickshank, a team leader of peer support and advocacy group Junction, said the council could have gone further, such as requiring venues to have facial recognition technology.

When he was trying to give up gambling, he told his favourite haunts to stop him if he sat down to play, but none ever did when he relapsed

Facial recognition software would be much more effective he said, locking down machines when a registered problem gambler sat down.