New rules on poker machine numbers in Dunedin could be
tightened even further.
A sinking-lid policy in South Dunedin and a cap for the rest
of the city were adopted by the council yesterday.
However, a tougher sinking-lid policy could be introduced
across the whole city following an impassioned speech from Cr
After much debate over the past several years about how to
reduce the harm caused by pokies - install a sinking lid or a
cap - the council recently consulted the public specifically
on whether they wanted the number of pokies in the city
A hearing was held and following deliberation of the more
than 600 submissions, including many supporting a city-wide
sinking-lid policy, a councillor subcommittee recommended the
council adopt a sinking lid in South Dunedin, where there
were many machines and high levels of deprivation, and a cap
for the rest of the city.
Cr Thomson asked why the subcommittee felt a sinking lid was
inappropriate for the rest of the city, prompting chairwoman
Cr Kate Wilson to say it was because the number of machines
in South Dunedin was above the national average and the rest
of the city was below the average, so a sinking lid was only
needed in South Dunedin.
Cr Thomson said he felt uncomfortable suggesting changing the
subcommittee's recommendations when he was not part of the
However, as a former clinical psychologist with a background
in understanding how pokies and the environment they were in
worked and interacted with the human psyche, he found it
''incomprehensible'' the council would not wish to reduce
The machines worked on psychological principles that kept
people there, and the longer they kept people there, the more
money they lost, he said.
''The money is taken from the poor and redistributed to those
who are not poor.
''I, in all consciousness, cannot ignore that. I would like
to see these machines reduced, and a sinking lid is one way
of doing that without becoming the moral arbiter of the rest
of the community.''
After the meeting was stopped for several minutes for staff
to discuss whether the sinking lid could simply be expanded
without further consultation, he suggested staff instead
report back later on whether it could be done.
He did not intend to hold up adoption of the subcommittee's
recommendations in the meantime.
Cr Lee Vandervis said an expanded sinking lid was a
philosophical and moral decision the council could take to
recognise gambling harm.
Cr Chris Staynes, a member of the subcommittee, said he was
not against an expanded sinking lid, but the committee was
charged with a decision about whether to put a cap in place.
Cr Fliss Butcher said she was happy to see the sinking lid
spread across the city, as long as that decision did not hold
up the ''good work we were trying to do in South Dunedin''.
The recommendation to adopt the new mixed policy was passed,
as was the recommendation for staff to do more work on a
city-wide sinking lid.
A recommendation for the council to write to operators with
good host responsibility practices was defeated, with some
councillors, including Cr Vandervis and Mayor Dave Cull,
concerned the council should not start patting pokie
operators on the back for simply meeting their
South Dunedin: 12.9 poker machines per 1000 people
aged over 15.
Rest of city: 3.7 pokies per 1000 people aged over 15.
National average: 5.2 pokies per 1000 people aged over
South Dunedin: Sinking lid applies until there are a
maximum of five venues with a total of 50 machines, at which
time it becomes a cap. (At present, 12 venues and 168
machines in this area)
Rest of the city: A cap of 30 venues and 362 machines
(as at March 5, 2013).