Whanganui residents opposing gaming machines have hit the jackpot as a sinking lid policy looks to be a winner with public opinion.
The Whanganui District Council received 115 submissions during the public consultation process which closed on October 30. Of these, 101 agreed to retaining the sinking lid and eight disagreed. Six did not indicate a position.
The gambling venues policy proposed three options; to allow only one standalone TAB venue in Whanganui, retain the sinking lid policy and, lastly, set out conditions for relocation of existing venues which have gaming machines.
A council spokesperson said it was clear from the number of responses, a majority opposed proliferation of the gaming machines. The Gambling Act 2003 classifies the machines as "class 4" gambling - high-risk and high-turnover.
"Early indications are that submitters are generally supportive of the proposed policy and for the council to continue a sinking lid policy on class 4 machines and venues."
Sinking lid meant when an existing pokie venue closed, consent would not be given for another to open.
It also means a venue could not increase its number of pokie machines and, when a venue reduced its number of pokie machines, it could not later replace them.
The policy was designed to lead to a decrease in pokies and venues over time.
Recently released data from the Department of Internal Affairs showed Whanganui pokie spend increased slightly this year.
More than $3.83 million was poured into pokies in Whanganui between July and September 2016, compared with more than $3.84m the same period this year.
Problem Gambling Foundation spokeswoman Andree Froude said the foundation was unsure of the reason for the increase in Whanganui.
"We just don't know, but we know what it isn't. It's not economic growth, and it's not numbers of visitors increasing or population growth either, so we would really like to find out what is fuelling the increase in spend," Ms Froude said.
Ms Froude said despite the increase in pokie spend in Whanganui, there had been no increase in clients seeking help.
"A lot of that is to with the fact there is a lot of stigma and shame associated with problem gambling and people just often don't present for help, so that could be a reason for that being static."
One group strongly opposed to the sinking lid policy was the New Zealand Community Trust.
The trust's 30-page submission to council said the purpose of the pub gaming sector was to raise funds for the community.
"Many community sports, arts and other groups depend on pub gaming to survive."
The trust submitted sinking lid and restrictive relocation policies "destroy the infrastructure that allows community funding from gaming trusts to be sustainable long term".
In 2016, the total returned to the community from non-casino gaming grants was about $260m.
"To raise this much money themselves, our grant recipients would have had to wash around 8.4 million cars at $5 a wash, which would take 10 people continuously washing cars for 30 minutes each more than 48 years to achieve," the submission said.