In the time when the world is tackling the coronavirus pandemic, Wellington has an additional responsibility of tackling problem gambling.
In the upcoming council meeting on Thursday Tamatha Paul, city councillor of Wellington will be presenting a “sinking lid” proposal.
Those who don’t know what a sinking lid policy is, it mandates the government to not issue any new pokie machine licenses and there will be no transfer of existing pokie machines in case the pub or the owner of the venue closes.
Wellington region has 983 pokie machines while the city alone has 633 machines.
An old clause will also be brought back wherein a non- designated gambling premises will not be allowed to become venues with pokie machines.
Pokie machine in pubs and clubs contributed to approximately $61 million in 2017 and 2018 to the sport, education, health, art and environmental sectors in the Wellington region
In the absence of this contribution, the council would likely be asked to extend financial support and funding to local organisations and clubs.
However, there have been concerns regarding the proposal coming from the groups that rely completely on this funding.
Phil Gibbons who is the chief executive of Wellington Sport asserted on creating more awareness about the unintended consequences that would come from reducing funding through gaming.
“Wellington’s sport and recreation sector relies heavily on that funding to enable sport and active recreation to occur at the community level,” he said.
“As we have learnt through the Covid-19 period, when funds aren’t available, there will be serious implications for the community.”
Paula Snowden who is the chief executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation said that it is supporting the sinking lid policy.
The revenue generated from pokie machines were coming from the pockets that couldn’t afford it.
These machines are proving to be detrimental to the community as family’s with little money were losing it to such games. She said this policy change could divert the money to retail and business who could become sponsor groups for the funding.
Groups like Pub Charity Limited, Sport NZ, and others would be presenting their opinion about the proposal.
Councillor Tamantha Paul also suggested that it is unethical to take money from poor people playing on the machines and then using it for funding other activities.
“I’ve seen the first-hand impacts of problem gambling and how it destroys whānau, takes food off the table, and takes parents away from their children. We have to do our bit to mitigate this.”
Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said that it is their responsibility to support the residents and minimize harm by using their power to regulate.
“Problem gambling is tearing families apart in Wellington, so I support a sinking lid as one small step to reducing gambling-related harm,” she said.
In the upcoming Council’s strategy and Policy meeting changes in Gambling Venue Policy will be proposed.
The changes proposed in the submission will be open to the public from September and the final decision would be taken around November.