‘Pokie-free’ group issues challenge

Invites industry advocates to talk face-to-face.

Invites industry advocates to talk face-to-face.

Community organisations benefiting from the gaming industry and residents affected by gambling harm have been challenged to meet face-to-face to discuss the pros and cons of pokie machines here.

Just a month after The Gisborne Herald revealed government-funded Community Organisation Grants Scheme will slash $45,000 from its Tairawhiti grant pool, pokie industry advocates are pointing to the lack of available funding as a reason for community groups to oppose a proposed new sinking lid gambling policy suggested by Gisborne District Council.

Bruce Robertson, representing a gaming industry group, stated clubs and community groups received $4.35 million a year from the gaming machines located in the district’s 12 gaming venues.

These organisations found the funding extremely valuable but there was little publicity around the benefit that came from gaming grants.

Mr Robertson urged community groups to make a submission to Gisborne District Council detailing what they had been able to achieve with the funding.

However, those supportive of a new gambling policy have challenged those same community groups to meet face-to-face with families affected by gambling harm.

Mr Robertson’s own submission said the time had come to consider replacing the sinking lid with a cap at current numbers (12 venues, 180 gaming machines), given the significant measures that were now in place to minimise the harm from gaming machines.

All six of New Zealand Community Trust’s Gisborne venues had facial recognition technology installed to assist with monitoring and enforcing problem gambling exclusion orders, he said.

Mr Robertson’s submission also asked the council to retain the existing relocation provisions that enabled gaming venues to move to new, modern premises, to move to buildings that had a higher earthquake rating, and to move if the current landlord was imposing unreasonable terms.

He warned that erosion of the community funding infrastructure was leading to more grant applications being declined due to a lack of available funds for distribution.

He also pointed out the New Zealand National Gambling Study: Wave 3 (2014)1 noted that the problem gambling rate had remained the same over the previous 10 to 15 years, despite gaming machine numbers decreasing.

Mr Robertson, who is the independent chairman of the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand, also warned that any further reduction in the local gaming machine offering may also lead to a migration of the gambling spend to offshore internet- and mobile-based offerings.

However, Ka Pai Kaiti, which aims to see Tairawhiti “pokie-free” inside the next three years, urged those affected by gambling to make their voices heard in favour of the new proposals.

“We encourage those whanau and especially families that endure suffering because of gambling to have their voices heard,” chairwoman Lizz Crawford said.

“It would be great for those people who have been granted funding to meet the people who have gifted their losses to you so you may look them in the eye and explain how they have helped you thrive while they languish. Who’s in?”

She encouraged trusts, societies and clubs to decline all funding applications from Tairawhiti.

“The Gisborne District Council has released an exceptional sinking lid policy draft with no relocations and no establishing of pokies under any circumstances.

“This is particularly good as Tairawhiti has no dedicated help service for whanau and families.

“Gambling was not meant to be offered where help is not available.”

A council spokewoman said to date 12 submissions had been received during consultation on its Draft Gambling Venue Policy, raising a range of matters.

“Submissions have been received both supporting and opposing the sinking lid policy.”

Submissions can be made on the policy by clicking the “have your say” link on the home page of the Gisborne District Council’s website. Submissions close on April 9.

Community organisations benefiting from the gaming industry and residents affected by gambling harm have been challenged to meet face-to-face to discuss the pros and cons of pokie machines here.

Just a month after The Gisborne Herald revealed government-funded Community Organisation Grants Scheme will slash $45,000 from its Tairawhiti grant pool, pokie industry advocates are pointing to the lack of available funding as a reason for community groups to oppose a proposed new sinking lid gambling policy suggested by Gisborne District Council.

Bruce Robertson, representing a gaming industry group, stated clubs and community groups received $4.35 million a year from the gaming machines located in the district’s 12 gaming venues.

These organisations found the funding extremely valuable but there was little publicity around the benefit that came from gaming grants.

Mr Robertson urged community groups to make a submission to Gisborne District Council detailing what they had been able to achieve with the funding.

However, those supportive of a new gambling policy have challenged those same community groups to meet face-to-face with families affected by gambling harm.

Mr Robertson’s own submission said the time had come to consider replacing the sinking lid with a cap at current numbers (12 venues, 180 gaming machines), given the significant measures that were now in place to minimise the harm from gaming machines.

All six of New Zealand Community Trust’s Gisborne venues had facial recognition technology installed to assist with monitoring and enforcing problem gambling exclusion orders, he said.

Mr Robertson’s submission also asked the council to retain the existing relocation provisions that enabled gaming venues to move to new, modern premises, to move to buildings that had a higher earthquake rating, and to move if the current landlord was imposing unreasonable terms.

He warned that erosion of the community funding infrastructure was leading to more grant applications being declined due to a lack of available funds for distribution.

He also pointed out the New Zealand National Gambling Study: Wave 3 (2014)1 noted that the problem gambling rate had remained the same over the previous 10 to 15 years, despite gaming machine numbers decreasing.

Mr Robertson, who is the independent chairman of the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand, also warned that any further reduction in the local gaming machine offering may also lead to a migration of the gambling spend to offshore internet- and mobile-based offerings.

However, Ka Pai Kaiti, which aims to see Tairawhiti “pokie-free” inside the next three years, urged those affected by gambling to make their voices heard in favour of the new proposals.

“We encourage those whanau and especially families that endure suffering because of gambling to have their voices heard,” chairwoman Lizz Crawford said.

“It would be great for those people who have been granted funding to meet the people who have gifted their losses to you so you may look them in the eye and explain how they have helped you thrive while they languish. Who’s in?”

She encouraged trusts, societies and clubs to decline all funding applications from Tairawhiti.

“The Gisborne District Council has released an exceptional sinking lid policy draft with no relocations and no establishing of pokies under any circumstances.

“This is particularly good as Tairawhiti has no dedicated help service for whanau and families.

“Gambling was not meant to be offered where help is not available.”

A council spokewoman said to date 12 submissions had been received during consultation on its Draft Gambling Venue Policy, raising a range of matters.

“Submissions have been received both supporting and opposing the sinking lid policy.”

Submissions can be made on the policy by clicking the “have your say” link on the home page of the Gisborne District Council’s website. Submissions close on April 9.

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