Other ‘P’ problems: Pokies, Policy

COLUMN

There is mandatory policy that every venue has in place to help support pokie players, so there is less chance they will experience addiction or harms from this activity that is called “entertainment and fun” by councils nationally when they are reviewing Class 4 Gambling Venue Policies and Board Venue Policies.

This obviously failed for the manager who was convicted of theft of around $35,000 worth of pokie takings, and then gambling it back into the machines. It is evidence of systems and policy failures at a local and national level.

The person is experiencing the social impact of gambling — crime to fund their gaming, and personal impacts of gambling — depression and harm to familial relationships, and the economic impacts of gambling — relying on others for financial support for living, as far as we know, without employment.

Host responsibility is venue policy for all people playing the pokies, with staff trained by their trust, society, club or venue manager to help if they see the signs of gambling harm.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 says as “far as reasonably practicable” an employer must protect employees from harm in the workplace.

It appears that pokie machines were not identified as a hazard in this workplace and steps to protect the employee (and a member of the public when the manager gambled at other nearby venues) from harm were either not implemented or insufficient to protect the manager from experiencing harm.

Host responsibility policies, employment policies and employment contracts may need reviewing in Tairawhiti concerning gambling harm.

Employers screen employees for drugs and alcohol and in some industries the testing is mandatory. Harmful gambling needs to be screened for by employers.

The control measure in workplaces to address gambling harm is inexpensive — mandatory screening of employees for gambling or being impacted by gambling, and employment policies that do not allow for gambling opportunities within the workplace.

Gisborne District Council and Te Ara Tika have asked for guidance from Local Government New Zealand concerning local policy matters outside of workplaces. This is an ongoing process, with the next Class 4 Gambling Venue Policy review due to take place in November 2018.

We need to make a difference now. Gisborne District Council may like to look at an assessment of the social impact of gambling.

Policy is nothing without the voice of the community, which spoke loud and clear in a letter to the editor “Ban addictive pokies” (Gisborne Herald, February 23, 2017).

How much more harm has to happen before we do anything about it?

As the law stands, once a territorial authority gives consent for pokies it cannot revoke that consent. However, the Secretary for the Department of Internal Affairs and the Minister do have this power in certain circumstances.

Alcohol licensing is becoming another effective tool. When the venue is really just for gaming, the Gambling Act 2003 is being breached and alcohol licenses cannot be granted in this situation.

It is clear that “gambling needs to be reframed as a social hazard rather than a harmless leisure pursuit. Maori are at particular risk of the negative impacts of gambling harm, and the government’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi should be the basis for gambling legislation that recognises gambling as a social hazard.” (Dr Lorna Dyall, 2004). This needs to extend to local government policy and employer policies for Tairawhiti.

■ Lizz Crawford is the kaiwhakahaere/manager for Te Ara Tika Trust, Tairawhiti Gambling Services

There is mandatory policy that every venue has in place to help support pokie players, so there is less chance they will experience addiction or harms from this activity that is called “entertainment and fun” by councils nationally when they are reviewing Class 4 Gambling Venue Policies and Board Venue Policies.

This obviously failed for the manager who was convicted of theft of around $35,000 worth of pokie takings, and then gambling it back into the machines. It is evidence of systems and policy failures at a local and national level.

The person is experiencing the social impact of gambling — crime to fund their gaming, and personal impacts of gambling — depression and harm to familial relationships, and the economic impacts of gambling — relying on others for financial support for living, as far as we know, without employment.

Host responsibility is venue policy for all people playing the pokies, with staff trained by their trust, society, club or venue manager to help if they see the signs of gambling harm.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 says as “far as reasonably practicable” an employer must protect employees from harm in the workplace.

It appears that pokie machines were not identified as a hazard in this workplace and steps to protect the employee (and a member of the public when the manager gambled at other nearby venues) from harm were either not implemented or insufficient to protect the manager from experiencing harm.

Host responsibility policies, employment policies and employment contracts may need reviewing in Tairawhiti concerning gambling harm.

Employers screen employees for drugs and alcohol and in some industries the testing is mandatory. Harmful gambling needs to be screened for by employers.

The control measure in workplaces to address gambling harm is inexpensive — mandatory screening of employees for gambling or being impacted by gambling, and employment policies that do not allow for gambling opportunities within the workplace.

Gisborne District Council and Te Ara Tika have asked for guidance from Local Government New Zealand concerning local policy matters outside of workplaces. This is an ongoing process, with the next Class 4 Gambling Venue Policy review due to take place in November 2018.

We need to make a difference now. Gisborne District Council may like to look at an assessment of the social impact of gambling.

Policy is nothing without the voice of the community, which spoke loud and clear in a letter to the editor “Ban addictive pokies” (Gisborne Herald, February 23, 2017).

How much more harm has to happen before we do anything about it?

As the law stands, once a territorial authority gives consent for pokies it cannot revoke that consent. However, the Secretary for the Department of Internal Affairs and the Minister do have this power in certain circumstances.

Alcohol licensing is becoming another effective tool. When the venue is really just for gaming, the Gambling Act 2003 is being breached and alcohol licenses cannot be granted in this situation.

It is clear that “gambling needs to be reframed as a social hazard rather than a harmless leisure pursuit. Maori are at particular risk of the negative impacts of gambling harm, and the government’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi should be the basis for gambling legislation that recognises gambling as a social hazard.” (Dr Lorna Dyall, 2004). This needs to extend to local government policy and employer policies for Tairawhiti.

■ Lizz Crawford is the kaiwhakahaere/manager for Te Ara Tika Trust, Tairawhiti Gambling Services

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