A sinking-lid policy on poker machines in South Dunedin
has passed its first hurdle at the Dunedin City Council.
The council's gambling and TAB venue policy hearings
subcommittee, which considered whether to impose a cap on the
number of pokies in the city, has unanimously voted to
recommend a sinking-lid in South Dunedin and a cap, set at
the present number of machines, for the rest of the city.
The sinking lid in South Dunedin would reduce 12 gaming
machine venues in the area to a maximum of five, and the
total number of machines from 168 to 50.
It would apply to venues in the city south of State Highway 1
between Caversham and Andersons Bay.
Committee chairwoman Cr Kate Wilson said visits to various
gaming venues in the city and discussions with operators and
patrons had ''opened [the committee's] eyes'' to the issues
around pokies. It had become particularly concerned by the
apparent lack of rigorous controls on the activity.
After hearing from various submitters, it also questioned the
disparity between the industry's oft-touted number of problem
gamblers officially excluded from Dunedin venues - about 40 -
and the number of people seeking help from organisations such
as the Salvation Army's Oasis programme, which at any given
time was working with 300 people with gambling issues.
Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said that indicated the problem
was not being acted on by venue operators, despite it
probably being quite obvious when someone had a gambling
''It seems to me there is not enough at the edges to protect
As with the alcohol industry, there were likely to be good
operators and bad operators, but unlike the alcohol industry
there appeared to be little enforcement or impetus on
operators to comply with regulations and monitor and deal
with problem gambling in their venues.
The council, however, had no power to do anything about that,
so the committee also voted to write to the Department of
Internal Affairs, which was responsible for enforcing
The letter would express concern about issues such as the
apparent lack of regular compliance checks or enforcement at
venues and the need to ensure proper training of venue staff,
as well as other things that would ''really start to put
venue operators on their toes'', Cr Staynes said.
Cr Wilson said the decision to recommend a sinking lid only
in South Dunedin stemmed from evidence the committee read and
heard from submitters on the amount and effect of gambling
being worse in more deprived areas.
Of the 518 pokie machines in Dunedin, one third (168) were in
South Dunedin, the area of the city that ranked highest on
the deprivation index.
A sinking lid means poker machines can not be relocated when
a venue closes and no new machines can be installed.
Before the committee began deliberating, it heard from
Campbell Wilson, of the charitable gaming trust Southern
Trust, who argued a sinking-lid policy would threaten the
funding that went to community groups from poker machine
Sara Epperson, from the Problem Gambling Foundation, then
told the committee a sinking lid would give the council and
community plenty of time to work out how to cope with that.
Without change, the question inevitably became about how
prepared a place was to continue taking from low-income areas
to give to what were often affluent community organisations.
''And that's not a comfortable question to be asking.''
If the money stayed in a community in the first place,
instead of going into a poker machine, there might be less
need for community funding.
The committee's mixed policy approach was confusing, as it
clearly recognised the harm gambling was causing, but still
decided to limit its response.
Overall, it was a healthier policy for the city to have, she
The recommendation will now be debated by the full council.