Racing board calls for pokies in TABs

The New Zealand Racing Board has called on the Waitaki District Council to change its policy and allow the placement of gaming machines in TAB outlets.

The board's submission was one of three received by the council, which is conducting its three-year gambling-policy review.

Gaming machines in the district were estimated to have a turnover of almost $1 million in the last three months of last year.

At present, TAB venues in the district are not allowed to have the machines.

Public submissions to the council closed on Friday.

The racing board supported the current number of gaming venues and machines in the district.

However, it asked the council to amend its policy so that venues conducting racing and sports betting under the Racing Act be allowed to have gaming machines.

As well as the board's submission, two others were received - from the Salvation Army's Oasis Centre and Oamaru resident Tony Brady.

The Oasis Centre's submission was from counsellor Judith Clarke, who offers help to Waitaki residents who have gambling-related problems.

"This experience has convinced me of the widespread and destructive influence electronic gaming machines particularly are having in our communities."

More than 90% of the people she counselled had problems related to gambling machines.

Between October and December, gaming-machine turnover in the Waitaki district was $936,955 - an increase of $43,634 on the previous three months.

"It represents a lot of money for a region with a population of about 20,000 and a median income of less than $20,000."

The Salvation Army supported the adoption of a "sinking-lid policy" - a ban on any additional venues or machines.

"We believe this would reduce gambling harm in our community," she said.

Mr Brady said the present policy served the community well.

He believed the present sites were well managed and deserved to continue as they were.

Submissions will be considered by the council on March 8 before it makes a final decision.

The policy put out for public consultation allows up to one gambling venue per 1000 population.

Waitaki has capped that at a maximum of 20 venues. At present, there are 14.

The policy also limits the number of gaming machines in the Waitaki district to 140. At present, there are 129.

Any new venues are limited to a maximum of nine machines, but an application can be made to operate more.

The application is then considered with reference to several criteria.

Gambling machines are not allowed in premises incompatible with other predominant uses in a commercial or retail district; within 100m of each other; or in residential or recreational zones unless they are at sporting venues or recreational, non-profit clubs.



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