With Napier City Council about to propose a draft Gambling Venues Policy for public consultation, it’s worth knowing that expenditure on pokies is increasing in Napier. From March 2015 to March 2020, gaming machine proceeds (GMP) – expenditure or player loss – for Napier increased by 17.7%. New Zealand increased by 5% and Hastings by 12.4%.
Ranked 7th in New Zealand, Napier lost $5,088,377 to pokies machines in the last three months of 2019. For every adult in the city, $107.20 was spent on pokies, after prizes were taken out.
So which six of the 67 Territorial Local Authorities lost more than Napier on pokies? Kawerau lost $132.45 per head, Wairoa $124.09, Rotorua $123.62, Thames-Coromandel $111.75, Whakatane $111.75, Opotiki $109.76, then us. Hastings was 26th with the loss of $76.43.
Where does the money go?
Each year a minimum of 40% of gaming machine profit is returned from pokies gambling to the New Zealand community. However, there is no requirement for this money to be returned to the district from which it is taken.
Out of the $38 million taken from the twin cities in the 2019 calendar year, (Hastings $18 million and Napier $20 million), only $11 million was returned to the Hawke’s Bay region.
We are very aware of the many worthy community organisations who depend on gaming grants to survive. Here in Napier, just looking at the arts sector, the top three recipients in the 2018-2019 period were: the Art Deco Trust, who received $440,000; the Hawke’s Bay Latin Dance Club $150,000 and the Prima Volta Charitable Trust $140,000.
As someone who has sat on charitable trusts which made applications to gaming trusts, I am well aware of how convenient is the supplementary assistance they provide.
How are decisions made?
I have also sat on funding bodies, such as COGs, Napier City Council’s Community Services Grants Committee, Annual and Long Term Plan committees and Creative Communities. Their decision-making process is transparent and fair.
This has not been my experience of gaming trusts. If you miss out they simply tell you there was not enough money to go round.
What I have been told, however, is that gaming trusts take note of any individual who has spoken out publicly against pokies — and the trusts they sit on — in their decision-making.
I know because this happened to me. Last year, I made a public objection to the application for a tavern liquor license for the Golden Chance, a TAB and pokies venue in Maraenui. The HBDHB, the Council’s Liquor Licensing officer, the Police and several other individuals also officially objected, mostly on the grounds that the licensee could not prove the venue was getting more money from selling alcohol – their core business – than they did from the 18 pokies machines and TAB betting.
In my objection I mentioned the undesirability of having a drinking and pokies venue in the middle of the shopping centre in the area with the highest level of deprivation. Statistics show clearly that Maori and Pacific people living in such areas are at greater risk of problem gambling than other ethnicities.
As a result, I was subsequently told (by someone who knows how to successfully apply to gaming trusts for grants) that my public objection to pokies meant that any gaming funding applications from any trust I sat on would be turned down. Not just by the gaming trust involved in the Golden Chance, but all others as well.
I believed them, so I resigned from the Napier Age Concern Board and didn’t stand for another year on the Maraenui Rugby and Sports Association Board, rather than potentially jeopardise their future funding applications to gaming trusts. I have told two other charitable trusts I currently sit on that they will have to choose between having me as a trustee and making an application to any gaming trust.
When the Hastings District Council decided on their draft Gambling Venue Policy in September, they proposed a sinking lid and not allowing relocation of pokies machines. After hearing almost twice as many submissions from gaming trusts and grateful community organisations opposing these restrictions, they finally decided to adopt the sinking lid policy, but to allow relocation of machines.
Missing from the submitters were any social services providers who support families affected by problem gambling, but who also have to apply for gaming grants to make ends meet. Maybe they know, as I now do, that speaking out for further restrictions could affect their future funding.
However, I’m hoping to see lots of submissions from the community to the Napier City Council’s Gambling Venue Policy when it opens on 18thJanuary.
I can provide references for all figures and statistics cited above.
Because of my views, I have declared a conflict of interest so will not be involved in NCC’s deliberations during their Review of the Gambling Venues Policy.