By Andrew Laxon
People under 18 - or possibly 20 - could soon be barred from playing gaming machines.
A law change due back before Parliament today has the new age limit of 18, which could be raised to 20 to match the drinking age.
In its report on the Gaming Law Reform Bill, Parliament's internal affairs select committee says there is wide support for an age limit on gaming machines.
There is no limit now, even though the machines are the main mode of gambling for 56 per cent of problem gamblers, compared with the 27 per cent who favour casinos.
Machine numbers have more than doubled since 1992 to over 13,000.
However, the committee makes no recommendation on whether the age limit should be 18, as proposed in the original bill.
It says MPs know of moves to lower the drinking age from 20 to 18, which face growing opposition.
"The consumption of alcohol and the use of gaming machines regularly go together, and the sites for each activity are often the same," says the report.
"The House may wish to consider making the minimum age for gaming machine use the same as that for drinking."
If MPs agree, the age limit for gaming machines may become 20.
Opponents and some supporters of lowering the drinking age to 18 believe a majority of MPs favour keeping it at 20.
Alcohol and gambling laws are traditionally decided by conscience vote, although some parties, such as NZ First and the Alliance, plan to vote along party lines.
Existing gambling age limits are 20 for casinos, 18 for horse racing and 16 for Instant Kiwi. There is no age limit for buying a Lotto ticket.
Last night the committee chairwoman, National MP Katherine O'Regan, said the gaming machine age limit could be pushed up to 20 to match casinos, regardless of what happened to the drinking age.
By Andrew Laxon