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