Bars pushing for pokies profits

Pub and club owners and operators are pushing for a change to gambling laws, to allow them to take a profit on pokie machines and to reduce the amount that gets paid back to the community in grants.

The proposed changes have drawn fire from the Green Party which says they will lead to increased problem gambling.

In a recent policy document Hospitality New Zealand says it wants gambling law changes to tackle "unfair remuneration of operators and a bureaucratic, cumbersome operating environment with no flexibility or fairness".

Hospitality NZ want the law changed to introduce a commission-based payment system for venues, allowing them to take 16 per cent of pokie machine profits.

At present they are permitted to take only enough to cover their expenses.

Amongst other changes, Hospitality NZ also wants the removal of the requirement for 37 per cent of profits to be returned to the community, replacing that with a "a cap on society expenditure".

It also wants venues that merge to be able to increase the number of machines they operate - a measure that appears to cut across the "sinking lid"policy many local authorities currently have.

Hospitality NZ gaming advocate Reg Hennessy said the changes would deliver fairness, transparency and integrity, which were "critical to ensure that the sector was fairly remunerated for raising significant funds for the community".

"Allowing gaming machines to be relocated to new venues would help the hospitality product ... to modernise and meet the needs of the developing new suburbs."

Hospitality NZ says it intends lobbying political parties and MPs to adopt the law changes as policy, and it was seeking support from other stakeholders, including Gaming Trusts, recipients of grants and the Department of Internal Affairs.

However, Green Party gambling spokeswoman Denise Roche said if hosts were allowed to make a commission on machine proceeds, "they would be incentivised to encourage more gambling, much of which is likely to come from problem gamblers".

She also criticised the proposal to scrap the requirement to return 37 per cent of profits to the community.

"This seems to suggest that community groups would be given what's left over, if anything, once the pub owner, and gaming trust have clipped the ticket, when the Gambling Act is really clear that the purpose of this type of gambling is to create funds for community organisations."

Hospitality NZ's proposed pokie law changes:

# A commission based payment system for venues, set at 16 per cent.

# The ability for existing gaming venue licences to be transferred to other sites.

# Removal of the requirement for 37.12 per cent to be returned to the community, to be replaced with a cap on society expenditure.

# Clubs to distribute 50 per cent of their authorised purpose funds outside the club environment.

# Where venues merge that they have the opportunity to increase the number of machines to 30, consistent with the current policy for Clubs.

- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald

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