Pokie operators battle gaming bill
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.