Limit on pokies feared

Sports and community groups in Dunedin fear being left out of pocket if a push to cap the number of poker machines in the city is successful.

However, supporters of the move warn the social harm caused by gambling addiction means change is needed, and some are calling for even tougher rules.

The debate comes as a Dunedin City Council hearings subcommittee prepares to begin a three-day meeting on Wednesday, considering an amended ''Gambling and TAB Venue Policy''.

The subcommittee would consider the public's views on a proposal - already endorsed by city councillors - to cap the city's number of venues and gaming machines at 2013 levels.

The proposal would set the cap at levels found in the city on March 5 this year, meaning no more than 41 gambling venues, and 518 pokies would be permitted across the city.

Restrictions preventing venues from establishing in residential areas or next to schools, early childhood facilities, churches or other community facilities, would also continue.

The council voted in April to release the proposal for public consultation, and since then 635 individuals and groups have made submissions - more than were generated by Dunedin's proposed waterfront hotel.

A report by council liquor licensing and projects officer Kevin Mechen to the subcommittee said the proposed cap was supported by 17 submitters, while another eight had made general comments.

Another 11 submitters supported retaining the policy, which restricted venue locations but not the number of venues or machines in the city.

However, the bulk of submitters - 605 of them, including 594 form letters - wanted a tougher sinking-lid policy instead, citing the need to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling, Mr Mechen said.

That would see the maximum number of venues and machines reducing as venues closed or relocated.

Sport Otago chief executive John Brimble was among those to submit in support of the proposed cap, saying it would ''effectively maintain the status quo''.

Sports and other clubs remained ''very reliant'' on gaming funding to make ends meet, but the number of gaming trusts was diminishing as a result of mergers and amalgamations, he said.

''Any further reduction in the number of machines and venues will have a disastrous impact on sport and recreation bodies' ability to make ends meet and indeed survive,'' he warned.

Jill Johnson, of the Otago Softball Association, was among those calling for the status quo to be maintained, saying gaming funding was ''critical'' to the sport.

It helped the association provide affordable services and equipment, and offset competition costs, and was particularly important at junior levels, when parents were stretched, she said.

Athletics New Zealand commercial and marketing manager Carl Jackson agreed, saying the not-for-profit organisation assisted 22,000 members and thousands more through schools and community events, but was reliant on funds from gaming trusts.

However, the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand made a detailed, 30-page submission in support of a sinking lid policy in Dunedin.

In it, the foundation argued pokies were not a ''harmless product that a few weak-willed individuals need help with''.

''These machines are designed to addict and are doing significant harm,'' it warned.

That harm extended beyond the individual to their friends, families, workmates and others, and meant that as many as 500,000 people in New Zealand were affected in some way by problem gambling.

Pokies were the major cause of gambling harm in New Zealand, and were concentrated in low-income areas, but councils could make a difference by introducing sinking lid policies, the foundation said.

Already, 19 councils in New Zealand had taken that approach, and the foundation's submission called for Dunedin to follow suit.

The Southern Primary Health Organisation also backed a sinking lid policy, saying gambling was ''increasingly recognised'' as a cause of social harm affecting health, relationships, finances, employment and parenting.

Dunedin's pokies were found in higher concentrations in low income areas of the city - North and South Dunedin - and the city's gamblers spent more than $4.7 million in them during the three months to December last year.

That equated to $18 million in a year, the organisation noted.

In total, 71 submitters have said they want to speak to the subcommittee, comprising chairwoman Cr Kate Wilson, deputy mayor Chris Staynes and Cr Fliss Butcher.

The hearing begins on Wednesday and is scheduled to continue on Thursday, then break before concluding the following Monday.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

My point exactly...

MikeStk: that is my point - it's not up to ratepayers. The people who play pokies are not required to play pokies so it's a better pool of funds than rates which people have no choice on paying. If the bleeding hearts want to control gamers lives and the clubs suffer as a result then rates are the next best thing as a stopgap. Hence pokie funding should stay.

I should also say that I don't participate in either pokie playing nor any clubs so it's not my fun or money that is in question. 

:Pokie machines

We all have a right to play or not play the pokies. If money goes to various sporting groups that's great - let's get our kids out there playing a sport or being involved in dance, the arts etc. That money is an investment.

The TAB does not put much back into our community. This organisation is a monopoly - there is no competition in NZ.

We can gamble online if we feel like it and that money will not stay in our community - it will go directly overseas.

If you don't like the thought of a rugby club getting your money, don't put the money in the pokies. Any organisation can apply for a grant. [Abridged]

Pay some realistic dues

s3vnn0: Why should the ratepayers be stuck paying for your fun? How about upping your organisation's dues to cover your real costs - your members will value what you do more if they're paying for it themselves rather than some little old lady on a fixed income living in a pensioner flat being dinged for your costs. We already provide you playing fields for free. Grow up and ditch the sense of entitlement. Become a bit self sufficient rather than leeching off of the rest of us.

All stick and no carrot.

Don't remove pokies until alternative funding is in place. Make the anti pokie people put their money where their mouth is and fund the trusts through rates.

Gambling is never the answer

dailyreader: we did great before we had pokie funding, in fact arguably local sports were stronger then, why not go back to what worked well for the previous 100 years rather than preying on the weak among us to pay for your fun?

Schools should be fully funded  by the government, there's obviously something wrong with the current one if they have to continually depend on gambling to make do.

I already help run a local organisation, often out of my own pocket, we've tried hard to be self sufficient, and so far continue to do so, no pokie or DCC money for us, we do it by keeping our costs way down, taking donations from our members, and running a sliding fee scale so that those than can afford it pay what they can, no one is turned away. We do pay for our own fun, it's hard but not impossible, and we don't have the city providing us with a venue for free, we pay rent.

Sporting chance.

Having been involved with sports clubs, I can tell you how damn hard it is to get fees and subs out of people.  And there is a lot more to running a club than providing a ball etc.  How impressed are you going to be if suddenly little Johnny hasn't got a sport to play every Saturday?  Perhaps with more subs being paid and  some very sizable direct donations from everyone concerned about the pokies, so sports groups etc (let's not forget there are schools who have received, too) would not have to turn to the pokies for funding.  Hey, there's an idea, become a club sponsor or committee member and find out what it actually takes to organise the sport instead of just slagging off from whatever sideline you happen to be on.  Gambling is not always an ideal situation but let something good come out of it.  

Community groups

Community groups making money from pokies is on par with them making money from dealing drugs. Why screw over the community they are meant to be there to help.

If these groups can't survive with out gambling money then they should shut down. The end does not justify the means.

Those sporting clubs etc

Those sporting clubs etc that take pokie machine grants are all guilty of buying into the completely flawed view that is the 'money laundering' aspect that the societies that own them actively promote. As long as the money rolls in, they will continue to have no moral or ethical view to deal with, unless of course, someone involved within that club starts stealing or misappropriating the granted monies

Sport should pay its way

Let's face it taxing gamblers to support local sports is just about the worst thing you can do, you're selecting the ignorant, the mathematically challenged, the addicts and taxing them at the worst possible  time, when they lose money - income tax after all happens when you make money. A sinking lid on pokies is the obvious way to slowly remove them from our city and to reduce the harm that they cause.

What I don't understand is why sports organisations need all this money, the city already provides the biggest expense, the playing fields, all they need is a ball, some boots and a shirt - balls can't cost that much. Where does the money go? surely it's not all going to subsidise club rooms so that people can have a drink afterwards, one would assume they can charge enough for the beer to cover those costs rather than unfairly competing with local pubs with a public subsidy - perhaps a return to a world where people pay for their own fun rather than depending on rifling others pockets is in order.

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