Pokie op­er­a­tors bat­tle gam­ing bill

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

Or­gan­i­sa­tions that han­dle gam­bling pro­ceeds are mar­shalling op­po­si­tion to Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s gam­bling harm re­duc­tion bill.

Mr Flavell aims to in­crease the pro­por­tion of net gam­ing prof­its dis­trib­uted. He wants to en­sure the prof­its are re­turned to the com­mu­nity they are col­lected from and to end the prac­tice of us­ing pokie ma­chine prof­its for horse rac­ing stakes.

His bill would also put gam­ing ma­chine pro­ceeds in the hands of lo­cal coun­cils to dis­trib­ute.

Welling­ton-based Pub Char­ity is one of the trusts that dis­trib­utes gam­ing ma­chine pro­ceeds all over New Zealand.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Cheer said the bill’s real goal was to get rid of pub-based gam­ing ma­chines al­to­gether. The bill would re­duce the num­ber of gam­ing ma­chines and there­fore pro­ceeds.

Mr Cheer said grants could also be di­verted to coun­cil projects, ad­min­is­tra­tion costs could rise and there could be job losses in ho­tels and tav­erns. Big Brother would also be over­see­ing gam­ing ma­chine play­ers, who would need a spe­cial card to ac­cess pok­ies.

There were prob­lems with some trusts, Mr Cheer said.

‘‘ I’ve never shied away from that but abo­li­tion of the [dis­tri­bu­tion] mod­els is not go­ing to ad­dress that.’’

Com­mu­nity Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion na­tional chair­man and pres­i­dent of the New Zealand Li­cens­ing Trust As­so­ci­a­tion John Burke said Mr Flavell’s bill was prob­a­bly well-in­ten­tioned but was one of the most poorly-con­structed pieces of leg­is­la­tion he had seen.

‘‘ Harm re­duc­tion can­not be achieved by clos­ing down gam­ing sites any more than you can deal with al­co­holism by clos­ing down pubs,’’ he said.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties al­ready au­tho­rised gam­ing ma­chines in their ar­eas and they would be­come ‘‘highly con­flicted’’ if they were put in the po­si­tion of also han­dling pro­ceeds, he said.

He ac­knowl­edged that not all gam­ing ma­chine trusts per­formed per­fectly.

‘‘It would be ab­so­lutely fool­ish of me to sug­gest oth­er­wise,’’ he said.

One trust had granted gam­ing pro­ceeds from south Auck­land to the Otago Rugby Union, he said.

Char­tered clubs have dis­pen­sa­tion to use pro­ceeds for ‘‘au­thor- ised com­mu­nity pur­poses’’, but that would be cap­tured by the bill, he said.

Mr Flavell said the bill was un­likely to please ev­ery­one.

‘‘I un­der­stand that th­ese is­sues have been raised, which is good,’’ he said.

‘‘I am hop­ing that peo­ple won’t throw the baby out with the bath­wa­ter.

‘‘My hope is that by hav­ing had them raised in the sub­mis­sion process I can work with the min­is­ter.’’

Hear­ings for sub­mis­sions on the bill to the Com­merce Se­lect Com­mit­tee are sched­uled for Au­gust.

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