A Gisborne community group has risen up and shut down a hotel after objecting to troubles associated with its gaming machines.

Ka Pai Kaiti Trust manager Tuta Ngarimu works at an office next to the Kaiti Club Hotel, a bar and TAB with pokie machines.

His trust used to access funds from the pokie machines to help support people living in poverty.

But after witnessing domestic disputes out the front of the bar, that changed.

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"We started to see kids that were in the laundromat late at night," Ngarimu said. "Kids hanging around here because their parents were in there at the pokie machines.

"I started talking to people, talking to parents and then I started delving into what pokies are all about.

"I just didn't like how it had hooked our whānau. Well, actually it's an addiction, gambling.

The domestic violence he saw each week sometimes involved kids too.

"I found out that last year there was a total of over $10 million that went out of the Gisborne community in one year," Ngarimu said "$10 million! And you look at our community here, our community is one of the poorest communities in Aotearoa.

"Ten million went out of our community through these guys, and I started seeing greed in all the guys that owned these places.

"They don't care about our people. All they care about was our people's sitting in there, putting their money is into the machines every day."

A campaign was launched to eliminate pokie machines, including a protest at the launch of the Regional Development Fund in Gisborne. The protests garnered offers of legal help.

"We knew that the only way to close them down was to go for the liquor licence. So when they put in an application to renew their liquor licence, we objected against it. And we won."

But the District Licensing Committee's decision was appealed.

"The judges came down here after the case and actually went into the bar and they saw for themselves that this is a gaming venue, because how it was set up," Ngarimu said.

The trust was again victorious and the Kaiti Club Hotel shut down.

Mohinder Nagra, the manager of the business which was owned by his wife, said they were $200,000 out of pocket.

He said it was a viable business without the pokies and had the trust sat down and explained the matter, he would have removed the gambling machines "rather than just shutting down the whole business and people losing their jobs".

Three staff lost their jobs.

Based in Hawke's Bay, Nagra owned several businesses and was a Justice of the Peace.

He said he believed the opposition was because of his race and because he wasn't a local.

"The bar has been there 17 to 18 years and they never opposed it before. So now I come there and they oppose it – some Indian."

Bruce Robertson, independent chair of the Gaming Machine Association, said a very small number of the population had a problem with gambling.

"It's point three of a per cent," he said. "The industry is required under law and regulation to do everything they can to identify problem gamblers and provide them with the help they need. And they're doing a pretty good job around that."

Robertson also said significant funding was going into communities from the machines which was hard to source anywhere else.

"I think, on the one hand, the industry is doing a pretty good job to protect those who have got a problem with gambling. And the benefit of gambling is that all the proceeds go back to the local community."

He pointed out the Kaiti Club Hotel did not have it's license cancelled due to gaming issues, rather because the venue didn't met the requirements of the Sale of Liquor Act.

Ngarimu said he hoped the victory would be an inspiration to communities.

"We beat them, so the message here for us - what we have been trying to tell our whānau - is if there is stuff happening out there with our whānau, then don't just sit there and let things happen.

"If you see things happening to our community, try and do something about it."

Helpline

If you or someone you know has a problem with gamblinging, telephone counsellors are available for free any time on 0800 654 655 or text Gambling Helpline on 8006.

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