Poker machine sinking lid expansion debate

Dunedin is set to begin next year with a debate on gambling, after a vote to consult on a sinking lid on poker machine numbers.

The Dunedin City Council voted almost unanimously yesterday to approve a draft plan that would extend a sinking lid policy on poker machines in South Dunedin across the whole city.

The gambling and TAB policy would also ban new venues and relocations of existing ones.

A report to yesterday's planning and environment committee said the numbers of venues and machines had been steadily declining, but spending rose from $16.4million in 2015 to $16.6million last year.

When the policy was last reviewed in 2013, a sinking lid was adopted for South Dunedin and a cap introduced for the rest of the city.

For the whole of Dunedin, the number of machines had dropped 40% from 704 in 2006 to 423 in 2016, while the number of venues had dropped 47% from 61 to 32.

There had been a 21% decrease in machines in South Dunedin, and 16% for the rest of the city.

Nationally the decrease was 12%.

Treatment providers had told the council the sinking lid in South Dunedin had been valuable, and wanted support from a city-wide policy.

The report said South Dunedin was an area with ''a very high number'' of the machines compared to the rest of Dunedin, and the rest of New Zealand.
At yesterday's meeting, Cr Andrew Whiley asked Dunedin district licensing committee secretary Kevin Mechen if the new policy meant there would be no opportunity for, for instance, growth in Mosgiel through a venue with six pokie machines.

Mr Mechen said under the draft policy there would not.

Cr Whiley noted another agenda item yesterday stated funding from gaming trusts for the Dunedin Masters Games stood at $92,500.

He asked how much money spent on the machines in Dunedin was donated back to the community through gaming trusts.

Mr Mechen said it would be one third of the annual total, or about $5.5million.

Cr Aaron Hawkins moved a recommendation approving the policy for recommendation, and there was no further discussion.

The motion was carried, with only Cr Whiley voting against.

The report said a special consultative procedure would need to be followed for the policy to be put in place.

That would begin next month, with a hearings process expected in January.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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