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.

My story

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.

Council Policy

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.

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3 Comments

  1. It is pleasing to see Ms Boag recognise her anti gaming attitudes as conflicted when it comes to Napier’s gambling policy. It is my experince that many Crs around the country who hold similar views lack the same integrity. The figures quoted by Ms Boag are incorrect or out of context. The returns to the community quoted do not include the funds applied by the numerous Clubs and TAB venues operating gaming machines in Napier, who do not distribute their net proceeds to the wider community in a contestable process but apply their funds directly to their own community purposes. Ms Boag either needs to recognise and count those community benefits or not count the expenditure in those venues. Either way the percentage of funds returned by way of distribution is significantly higher than reported. I know because my organisation Pub Charity Limited distributed over $2.5M to 135 organisations benefitting the Napier TLA in the last 12 months. The ‘increase’ in spend in nominal terms between 2015-2020 Ms Boag refers to is a reflection of inflation and population growth. National expenditure over those 5 years actually increased by 14% not 5% (DIA) as Ms Boag claims. The difference is simply the populaiton growth in the Hawkes Bay over that time.
    The evidence is clear. Sinking lids on gaming machines don’t work and never have and in an age of online gambling simpley drive people out of controlled and supervised spaces to uncontrolled and unsupervised activity. Its more risky and the profits go offshore.
    Decision making is only as good as the information its based on. The Council needs facts not propoganda.
    MArtin CHeer ‘
    Chief Executive
    Pub Charity Limited

  2. Thanks Mr Cheer for reading my article which was based on information which, as you pointed out, did not come from the industry.
    Could you please comment on the advice I was given, namely that by publicly supporting the closure of a pokies venue in Maraenui as ward councillor, all not-for- profit trusts I sat on were likely to have their grant applications turned down? I’m very concerned that this might dissuade individuals (who happen to sit on not-for-profit trusts) from making submissions to gambling bylaw hearings if their submission favours restrictive policies such as sinking lids, for reducing gambling harm.

  3. Councillor Maxine Boag’s article highlights the sheer scale of the losses on pokies in the Napier community. Pokies in pubs, clubs and TABs are the most harmful form of gambling in Aotearoa New Zealand and there are five times as many pokie machines in our poorer communities than in our more affluent communities so those losses are coming from people that can least afford to lose it. The DIA estimate that 30% of Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) expenditure is from problem and moderate risk-gamblers (2016).
    We support Ms Boag’s comments about the lack of transparency and unfairness associated with funding from gaming trusts. There is little transparency about the application process and who gets what grants.
    Martin Cheer comments on the funds applied by the numerous Clubs and TAB venues operating gaming machines in Napier. In fact, clubs are not bound to use any of their funds to do anything other than run their club and the TAB has only agreed to give 20% of their GMP to amateur sport. The rest goes to the business of racing.
    There are many councillors around the country who are also concerned about the harm from pokies in their communities and we congratulate Maxine Boag for speaking out on an issue that is relevant and important for the community of Napier. We also encourage people to have their say on pokies when the council goes out for consultation on its gambling policy in January.
    Paula Snowden
    Chief Executive
    Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF Group)

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