Ban pokies from council sites
A proposed ban on pokies in Hutt City Council buildings has been criticised by a senior council officer, who believes it would do little to reduce problem gambling.
A ban would also have a huge impact on a $6.2 million councilowned bowling hub under construction in Naenae. Gaming trusts have contributed more than $1m towards the project and bowling is relying on pokies for 25 per cent of its income.
Hutt City councillor Campbell Barry’s motion to ban pokies from council facilities comes up for discussion at the council’s next meeting on August 2.
In March, councillors discussing the bowling facility were told the bowling club needed pokies to generate revenue.
Barry believed there was a general view in the community that pokies and the associated gambling caused significant harm.
He believed it was wrong to have pokies in a council-owned and controlled building.
Local Adam Weir supports Barry’s call for a ban and believed it had widespread support.
‘‘Ethically a council that promotes health and wellbeing in the community should not allow pokies. Ethically, I think it is all a bit shady.’’
Problem Gambling Foundation communications director Andree Froude also supported the proposed ban.
‘‘We see people coming through our doors every single day who have been damaged by these machines.’’
She was concerned the council took pokie money to fund the bowling hub, which was in turn relying on pokies for funding.
However, council general manager Matt Reid disputed the reasoning behind Barry’s call for a ban.
‘‘My response to him would be, where is the evidence that sports clubs attract problem gamblers?’’
If Barry was worried about harm to society, Reid said he should look at the impact alcohol had on the community.
Barry conceded that he might have a hard job convincing his fellow councillors.
2015 Internal Affairs figures list 488 gaming machines in Lower Hutt and 679 in Wellington. From January to March 2016, Lower Hutt residents spent $6.09m playing pokies.
James Weir and Vince Tamihere are staunchly opposed to a new Lower Hutt bowling facility having any link to gambling.