It is likely a sinking lid policy for pokie machines will not be applied to Waipā.

The decision was made at a Waipā District Council committee meeting on Tuesday, August 6.

Members debated whether the district's Gambling Policy should stay the same or be altered to include a sinking lid rule.

A sinking lid means no new licenses for pokie machines can be issued, and pokie machines cannot be transferred to a new pub or owner if the venue closes. It is a way to decrease pokie machine numbers over time.

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As of June this year, Waipā has 15 venues and 228 pokie machines.

According to the current Gambling Policy the district has a cap of 232 machines and it is likely that will not change.

The majority of committee members — aside from Poto Davies and Vern Wilson — voted to stick to the status quo.

Poto tried to push for a sinking lid policy, saying she has seen the harm gambling has caused.

She said it wasn't fair that money from addicted gamblers was being funnelled into the pockets of community groups in the form of grants.

And she said those people were unlikely to make submissions.

"Us here in this room, the ones making the decisions, are at the top of the cliff," Poto said.

"The lower socio-economic groups aren't going to submit against the weapon of their destruction." Vern Wilson agreed.

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"All the ones in favour [of pokie machines] are benefiting from the gambling," he said.

"If it's hurting families, people and children, we should reduce the number of machines — we've got an obligation to.

"We should help people, no matter their case."

The remaining committee members voted in favour of the status quo.

Marcus Gower said pokies led to good things in the community because of grants.

Last year $895m was spent in the slots across New Zealand. About 43 per cent goes back into various community organisations all over the country.

He said he took comfort in the fact that Waipā's growing population means the number of machines per head decreases.

"With our growth population, we've kind of got a sinking lid policy anyway."

He said it was also reassuring to know gambling venues were required by law to monitor problem gamblers.

Andrew Brown said it was an awkward decision but voted in favour of the status quo.
Susan O'Regan said she was also conflicted, but voted for the status quo.

"I'm reassured by the fact our growth in population will essentially be a sinking lid," she said.

Waipā's Gambling Policy — which has been up for review this year — received 24 submissions from the public.

Submissions were from a variety of people and groups, ranging from sports clubs who benefit from pokies grants to organisations that provide counselling for addicts.

It is likely that council will take on the recommendations from the committee at its meeting on Tuesday, August 27.

One group arguing strongly for pokie machine reform is the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Communications and marketing director Andree Froude says a sinking lid policy would be best for the Waipā district.

"It at least provides part of a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than picking up the pieces at the bottom."

Andree says venues do not always identify and responded to signs of harmful gambling.
"Although venues are required by law to provide host responsibility and have a duty of care towards their patrons, we know that often doesn't happen," she says.

In 2016 the Department of Internal Affairs conducted a mystery shopper exercise to assess host responsibility in pubs and clubs with pokies.

Eight per cent met expectations, 33 per cent met partial expectations and 59 per cent did not meet expectations.

Andree dismissed the idea that pokies are good because they benefit the community through grants.

"The grants never make up for the harm pokies cause."

She said spending on machines in the Waipā district is maintaining an upward trend and the number of pokies in the district increased in 2017 with the opening of two new venues.