Sport in New Zealand is propped up by around $180 million in
gambling revenue each year, creating a cycle of dependency
health experts have likened to big tobacco sponsorship.
While proceeds from Lotto and a levy on TAB sports betting
boost the bank balances of most national sports bodies and
help fund high performance athletes, pokie gaming trusts are
by far the biggest contributor.
Payouts in 2013 have taken the total pokie money contribution
to sports funding past the billion-dollar mark over the last
In 2012 gaming machines contributed $134,202,165 across the
sporting sector. The Lotteries grants board provided
$41,585,084 - most of which went to Sport New Zealand and
High Performance Sport New Zealand. The TAB contributed
$3,886,198 to the major sporting associations.
It's money sports administrators say they can't do without,
with many predicting a decline in gambling revenue for their
sport would result in children no longer being able to play.
That claim has been rubbished by Australasia's leading
authority on gambling harm.
"That is just nonsense," said Charles Livingstone, a senior
lecturer in preventive medicine at Melbourne's Monash
"It is exactly the same argument we heard from people in
sporting organisations that had become dependent on tobacco
money. When it was proposed that we should implement a ban on
that advertising the forecast was that sport as we know it
would cease to exist. That actually didn't happen.
"It's incredible self-serving nonsense if you ask me."
The New Zealand Rugby Union has been at the forefront of
sport's push to protect gambling revenue. At the select
committee hearing for Te Ururoa Flavell's Gambling Harm
Reduction bill the NZRU submitted that key measures in the
bill - which aimed to give communities greater powers to deal
with gaming machines - would cause "widespread harm to
Losing gaming machine revenue would see many rugby clubs
fold, while others would be forced to raise playing fees by
up to 500 per cent.
"All we were pointing out was what would happen if the
revenue generated by gaming was lost," NZRU chief Steve Tew
Dr Livingstone scoffed at that argument. "I assume rugby
union didn't exist in New Zealand before the pokie machine
industry was established?"
Softball New Zealand's acting chief executive Fay Freeman
backed the rugby union's submission.
"The NZRU had a responsibility to point out that sport is
reliant on gambling funds, and if this source of revenue is
not available, then the alternative is to stop providing
sport, or reduce accessibility of sport to those who can
afford to pay."
Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter said the
NZRU submission indicated just how dependent the sports
sector was on gambling revenue.
"Sport has identified its neediness in relation to that
income source and has acted to protect it," he said.
"It's really an illustration of how needy sport is that it
would go to that extent.
"You'd like to think that sport would be able to go to the
select committee and say how they have made good use of that
money and explain why it makes a useful and valuable
contribution back to the community and leave it at that."
Annual sports funding
Gaming machines* $134,202,165
* figures based on calendar year
** figures based on financial year
Gambling revenue by sport (2012)
*Figures exclude any High Performance Sport NZ funding
- Steve Deane of the New Zealand Herald