HCC split on pok­ies pol­icy

Hamilton News - - Front Page - Tom Row­land

Hamil­ton City coun­cil­lors Dave Macpher­son and Ryan Hamil­ton blasted the coun­cil’s move to con­tinue with its cur­rent sink­ing lid pol­icy on pokie ma­chines, with the lat­ter la­belling it “putting lip­stick on a pig”.

Last Thurs­day at a full coun­cil meet­ing, the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors voted to con­tinue with the cur­rent sink­ing lid pol­icy, which al­lows for a limited re­lo­ca­tion of pok­ies.

The pro­posed changes to the pol­icy would have pre­vented any and all re­lo­ca­tions of pok­ies ma­chines.

Coun­cil­lors heard from sub­mit­ters that the new pol­icy is far too re­stric­tive and would also af­fect community groups who re­ceive funding via pok­ies.

Coun­cil­lor Ryan Hamil­ton said all the sub­mit­ters had a con­flict of in­ter­est and were just looking af­ter their funds.

“We had speak­ers come in and speak about how re­stric­tive the in­dus­try is, but to me that is just putting lip­stick on a pig,” Cr Hamil­ton said.

“Coun­cil was very pas­sion­ate about try­ing to amend the al­co­hol li­cens­ing be­cause they re­alised the harm, but when it comes to this ev­ery­one is so split.”

Coun­cil­lor Dave Macpher­son backed Cr Hamil­ton and said the gam­bling in­dus­try lob­bies heav­ily to pro­tect their own patch.

“It is why they are here with se­nior lawyers pre­sent­ing their case,” Cr Macpher­son said.

Coun­cil­lor Macpher­son said pok­ies ma­chines have been ac­knowl­edged as the most ad­dic­tive form of gam­bling.

“For ev­ery prob­lem gam­bler, there are some­times tens of oth­ers in a fam­ily who are af­fected.”

He said the new pol­icy would min­imise harm fur­ther.

“Only 42 per cent goes back out into the community. If they are so con­cerned for the re­duc­ing amount of money go­ing into the community then why don’t they in­crease the pro­por­tion.”

Coun­cil­lor An­gela O’leary re­spected Cr Macpher­son’s stance on the mat­ter, but that she had to think about the community.

“The fight for those community or­gan­i­sa­tions has never been tougher,” Cr O’leary said.

“The world has changed, fundrais­ing has be­come a busi­ness.”

Coun­cil­lor Ge­off Tay­lor said he could not un­der­stand why coun­cil would not al­low re­lo­ca­tion.

“Most of the gam­bling ex­pen­di­ture is go­ing into all the other forms such as race gam­bling and Lotto,” Cr Tay­lor said.

“We are grab­bing the one that is most ac­ces­si­ble and deal­ing with it, and I ac­cept that, but these ex­tra con­trols go a step fur­ther, to me it goes past a point of rea­son­able­ness.

Coun­cil­lor Garry Mal­lett said peo­ple have ev­ery right to spend their money how­ever they choose.

“If they de­cide to spend their money on pokie ma­chines, it is up to them and they suf­fer the con­se­quences,” Cr Mal­lett said.

Mayor An­drew King, Deputy Mayor Martin Gal­lagher and coun­cil­lors Hamil­ton and Macpher­son voted in favour of the changes to the pol­icy.

Coun­cil­lors Paula South­gate, Siggi Henry, Rob Pas­coe, Leo Tooman, James Cas­son, Mark Bunt­ing, O’leary, Mal­lett and Tay­lor voted against the changes.

The pol­icy will be re­viewed be­fore the 2019 lo­cal elec­tion.

PHOTO / SUP­PLIED

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