In 2018 $300 million was distributed to Kiwi community activities, via the community trusts that distribute funds generated by gaming machines.
The funds were distributed as a result of around 28,000 applications to 12,000 different organisations.
For many there is an inconvenient truth in the link between gambling and these community funds, but the reality is, there are many good things going on in our community that wouldn't be happening if these funds were not available.
The obvious concern is that pokie machines are harmful to those that get caught up in problem gambling.
Some argue that pokie venues should be shut down, but others warn that just because it is more visible, doesn't necessarily make it more damaging. In some ways it is better we see it, than we don't.
They will argue that closing these venues down will drive the gambling back into a dark online world, a world that would be even more dangerous and depressing with individuals operating off their addictive devices, tucked away recluse and unseen, where a few clicks of the mouse can potentially blow much larger amounts of savings.
Whether you support or oppose gambling, crucial community funds could be lost if the system was shut down.
The potential changes in legislation being mooted could see substantial amounts of community funds redirected to the racing industry, who would then use it how they see fit.
The community losing those funds could be catastrophic, so any such changes need to be weighed up thoroughly.
And for those who say pokie outlets should be shut down, regardless of how much funds go to community vs racing, be careful what you wish for – the obvious knee jerk reaction is to say that gambling is not healthy, so let's get rid of all pokie machine outlets.
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But if you are only driving gambling elsewhere, and losing all those funds for the community, is that really helpful?
These days it is not simply the good old racing industry, sports betting has become an increasingly significant player in the New Zealand Racing Board's business – from 10 per cent of total turnover in 2003/04 to 27 per cent in 2017/18.
Portions of those earnings are returned to the sports themselves, and in this era where many sports are battling to survive at the grassroots level, these funds can be of major assistance to the codes if it is passed on and managed appropriately.
Some of those sports betting funds need to be administered through a qualified independent body, to ensure other minor sports benefit from the support as well, and Sport New Zealand is best positioned to administer that.
The sports themselves should surely have a voice regarding the involvement of gambling in their sport.
The moral decision making to help decide on what age or representative level sport betting can occur, eg. the All Blacks level might be fine, but obviously not primary school aged rugby.
The line needs to be drawn somewhere, and the sport should help decide that, not necessarily a gambling businessman.
In this modern world, with everyone getting increasingly busy, the role of volunteerism in our community is a dying art. Therefore, these contestable funds for community good projects is more important than ever.
A wide range of activities from sports, culture, arts, you name it … from transporting kids from low-socio areas to sporting events, to paying for ribbons and trophies and kids' dancing events, to funding administrators of huge participation sport events, mental and physical wellbeing programmes, facilities and equipment for clubs and schools – it goes on and on, an unmeasurably massive range of social benefits.
Yes gambling can involve problem gambling, but it is a double edged sword – and while most people are aware of the pokie outlets, most are also unaware of the community groups all amongst us, who are delivering every day to grow the health and wellbeing of our communities throughout the country – so it's a case of weighing up which side of the sword is making the biggest impact, the negative side, or the positive side.
■ Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.