Thursday, July 18, 2024

Far North sinks lid on pokies

Far North District Council last week reconfirmed a sinking lid policy on ‘pokies’ meaning no new gambling machines are allowed in the region, and redistribution of existing machines will continue to be restricted.  

The decision was made during Council’s 3 August meeting following a review of the Class 4 Gaming and TAB Venue Policy (2014).

The sinking lid policy was originally adopted in 2014 and includes strict rules for relocating Class 4 gaming venues. For example, new premises must be at least 100 metres away from schools, marae, places of worship and other community facilities. The policy also prohibits stand-alone TAB venues in the district that are not on licensed premises. The policy does not control TAB outlets on licensed premises.

Community consultation on the policy change was held in February for a month, resulting in 30 public submissions. Of those, 29 were either fully or partly in support of the policy extension.

When reviewing the policy, the Council says it considered the social impact of gambling in the district, noting that issues of harm tend to be concentrated in more socially deprived (poorer) areas, affecting those who can least afford to lose money through gambling.

“For example, 17 of the 19 Class 4 gaming venues in the district are in ‘very high’ or ‘medium high’ deprivation areas. Between 2014 and September 2020, the number of pokie machine venues in the district decreased by 24% and the number of pokie machines decreased by 13%. This shows that the policy is working,” said Councillor Kōwhai Stratford (pictured, centre).

In 2019, the total spent on Class 4 gaming in the Far North District was $15.7 million, but only $2.4 million (15%) was returned as direct grants to community groups in the district.

“While the council recognises the positive benefits of these grants, it considers that these benefits are outweighed by the social harms caused by problem gambling. The policy aims to control the growth of gambling and minimise harm caused by gambling in our communities, which is consistent with the objectives of the Gambling Act 2003,” said Cr Stratford.

Ministry of Health research shows that 49% of people who played pokies and over one quarter (26%) of those who bet on races or sports at least monthly, reported experiencing gambling harm.

Problems associated with gambling harm include:

  • Impacts on an individual’s physical, emotional and psychological health
  • Financial difficulties including bankruptcy
  • Reduced employment performance
  • Relationship conflicts, family violence and neglect of children
  • Criminal activity such as theft and fraud.

You can read the amended Class 4 Gaming and TAB Venue Policy on the FNDC Policies webpage

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing harm from gambling, contact Safer Gambling Aotearoa for guidance and support on freephone 0800 654 655 or free text 800. The service operates 24 hours a day.

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