Pokie ban could only be done at national level

EDITORIAL

It is a seemingly intractable problem. Gambling harm workers and others fed up with the community financial losses, and individual and family tragedies, are calling for a complete ban on “pokies”. The bad news for them is that is not legally possible.

What has spurred the latest outcry are statistics showing the district’s pokie users are losing record levels of money on these addictive and misleading machines of mislaid hope — $2.5 million every three months.

It has prompted the hard-working and frustrated Te Ara Tika Trust Tairawhiti gambling services manager Lizz Crawford to call for a ban, for which there is plenty of support.

However, not everybody agrees. One whose trust provides 28,000 swimming lessons a year to local children said people who could control themselves and liked a flutter would be penalised. He and another correspondent make the point that donations from pokie trusts do a lot of good for the community and sport groups — an argument also made in support of that more high-profile and widely-accessed gambling outfit, Lotto.

In any case, the council’s hands are tied. A spokesman says there would be significant legal issues with a complete ban. The venues that host pokie machines are legally-established and have necessary permits and authorisations. Councils are also unable to ban pokies because the permit for them is issued by the Internal Affairs Department.

The council’s consent is needed when someone wants to establish a new venue or relocate an existing one. With its sinking lid policy, the council will not issue any new consent but will consider allowing clubs to relocate. (None have closed since the “sinking lid” was brought in 12 years ago.)

The good news is that the council’s gambling policy is up for review next year and the community will have the chance to have its voice heard. But sadly there is no easy out. The battle to overcome harm is going to be a long and testing one.

In the meantime the best option is to support the work of Te Ara Tika Trust Tairawhiti. It is a matter of individual rights versus the harm to vulnerable people who can ill-afford their addiction.

It is a seemingly intractable problem. Gambling harm workers and others fed up with the community financial losses, and individual and family tragedies, are calling for a complete ban on “pokies”. The bad news for them is that is not legally possible.

What has spurred the latest outcry are statistics showing the district’s pokie users are losing record levels of money on these addictive and misleading machines of mislaid hope — $2.5 million every three months.

It has prompted the hard-working and frustrated Te Ara Tika Trust Tairawhiti gambling services manager Lizz Crawford to call for a ban, for which there is plenty of support.

However, not everybody agrees. One whose trust provides 28,000 swimming lessons a year to local children said people who could control themselves and liked a flutter would be penalised. He and another correspondent make the point that donations from pokie trusts do a lot of good for the community and sport groups — an argument also made in support of that more high-profile and widely-accessed gambling outfit, Lotto.

In any case, the council’s hands are tied. A spokesman says there would be significant legal issues with a complete ban. The venues that host pokie machines are legally-established and have necessary permits and authorisations. Councils are also unable to ban pokies because the permit for them is issued by the Internal Affairs Department.

The council’s consent is needed when someone wants to establish a new venue or relocate an existing one. With its sinking lid policy, the council will not issue any new consent but will consider allowing clubs to relocate. (None have closed since the “sinking lid” was brought in 12 years ago.)

The good news is that the council’s gambling policy is up for review next year and the community will have the chance to have its voice heard. But sadly there is no easy out. The battle to overcome harm is going to be a long and testing one.

In the meantime the best option is to support the work of Te Ara Tika Trust Tairawhiti. It is a matter of individual rights versus the harm to vulnerable people who can ill-afford their addiction.

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