The Upper Hutt City Council’s draft of a new gambling policy does not mention any measures to reduce the harm caused by pokies to the community which has concerned The Problem Gambling Foundation.
The policy also does not take any measures to prevent the growth of gambling in the region.
Paula Snowden who is the CEO of The Problem Gambling Foundation says pokies in clubs and pubs have the most detrimental effect on society yet the councils draft policy did not consider including an option like a sinking lid policy.
“A sinking lid policy is the best policy available to keep the number of pokies down in the community. Not only has the Council omitted it from the policy options, but it has left the door open for more pokies by setting the cap higher than the current number of machines,” she says
A sinking lid policy states that the ownership of pokie machines cannot be transferred to another club or person. It also states that no new pokie license can be issued.
Paula further added that between 1 January 2019 and 31 March 2020 more than $10.3 million was lost on pokies while the region received just $796,000 in funding from pokie trusts or societies.
“That is a huge amount of money coming out of the community in comparison to what is going back in the form of grants to the community, and problem gamblers are contributing approximately 30% of that, if not more,” she says.
As per the estimate of the Department of Internal Affairs, 1.3% of the population who are moderate risk or problem gamblers contribute to 30% of pokie losses.
Paula Snowden also said that it is important to focus where the money is coming from rather than where it is going, as most of the time the money is coming from the pockets that cannot afford to lose it.
In terms of pokie venue locations, 10 of Upper Hutt City’s 12 venues are situated in ‘very high’ socioeconomic deprivation areas and one is situated in a ‘medium-high’ deprivation area.
Upper Hutt City councilor Angela attempted to include sinking lid policy but was voted down by the Upper Hutt City Council Policy Committee in February.
“I’m disappointed in the lack of support for a sinking lid policy to go out for consultation. As a Council we need to demonstrate we are serious about looking after the Upper Hutt community,” Cr McLeod said
“A third of all Territorial Local Authorities nationwide have adopted a sinking lid and to not include it as an option during consultation makes a mockery of the entire process.”
Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC) has proposed a draft policy for class 4 gaming machine venues (Pokies) and is seeking feedback from the public.
The last date for feedback submissions is 19th July 2020