“I pawned off stuff to get money, I borrowed or took money from my family, they thought it was going towards food. Whenever I asked my kids for money, they said no, you’re going to gamble it, I lied and said, No I’m not.”  

Testimony from the late Minnie Ratima, recipient NCC Citizens Civic Award 2020, HB Today Person of the Year 2017, community activist, former pokies addict, at Liquor Licensing Hearing for the Golden Chance, Maraenui pokies venue, June 2020.

Napier’s Gambling Venue Policy is now out for public consultation till noon on 17 February.  

Focused on the numbers and location of pokies machines and venues, this is a very important policy because it affects both the low socio-economic communities who contribute a large proportion of the money going into pokies machines; and the many worthy community groups who benefit from gaming grants thus generated. 

Pokies machines provide the most harmful form of gambling in New Zealand. 

And Napier has the dubious distinction of being seventh out of 66 TLAs in terms of our loss of $107.20 per adult (for the quarter ending Dec 2019) to pokies machines. With DIA’s estimate that 30% of pokies spending is coming from problem and moderate-risk gamblers, Council has a responsibility to come up with a policy that the benefit from community grants derived from pokies profits does not outweigh the community harm from gambling, particularly in vulnerable communities. 

In fact, one of the goals of NCC’s Safer Napier accreditation is to end addiction-related harm and their decision on this policy will be part of their annual report to the Safe Communities Foundation New Zealand. 

I have declared conflict of interest so will not be voting on this decision, but will be making a submission and hope you will. My opting-out leaves me free to share some of my “predetermined” ideas (including not supporting the proposed proposal) and why I hold them. 

To know where I’m coming from, read what Minnie said. She spoke for many people who are experiencing this in our city now. Of course not all pokies players are addicts, but for those who are, their addiction negatively affects an estimated six others, so they pay a very high price in every aspect of their lives.  

Fairness and equity

It goes without saying that not-for-profits must be supported; but how fair is this system of pokies-generated funding which provides essential financial support to the voluntary sector?

The Gambling Harm Reduction Needs Assessment, done by the MOH in 2018, came to this conclusion:

“While there is little doubt about the community benefits associated with funding of the charitable sector, the policy rationale for compelling gamblers alone to make a special and very substantial contribution for funding these community benefits is rather unclear.

“There is no reason to assume that gamblers have a particularly high ability to pay and thus might be better placed to support charitable purposes than the rest of the community.

“In fact, the opposite seems to be the case: gambling tends to be more prevalent in lower income households. 

“Therefore gambling taxation and redistribution to community purposes tends to be regressive – ie placing a higher burden on the less well-off.” 

Funding communities based on a model that relies on our lowest income households putting money they cannot afford to lose into pokie machines is unethical and inequitable. 

Central government needs to step up and provide alternative funding so our community’s reliance on pokies-generated grants can be phased out.

How to minimise harm

Councils’ gambling policies has as its goal, to “prevent and minimize harm from gambling, including problem gambling” (Gambling Act 2003).  

Of course we can’t close down all pokies venues, nor do we want to stop groups getting gaming grants they need to do their good works. However, it is relevant that out of the $38 million from Hastings and Napier pokies takings in the 2019 calendar year (Hastings $18 million, Napier $20 million) only $11 million was returned to the Hawke’s Bay region.

So Napier City Council is seeking input into their policy on whether the community wants more pokies machines, the same number or fewer machines and venues? Where? Should we slowly reduce numbers with a sinking lid policy, and how flexible should we be in allowing machines to move when a venue closes down?

The Statement of Proposal out for consultation makes only one change to the existing policy, namely dropping the cap of permitted machines from 320, to the existing number which is 298.  

At present we have restrictions on where venues can be, with Maraenui excluded, which is good, now that the 18 machines from the Golden Chance have been moved to West Quay. 

However, the existing proposal being consulted on maintains a generous city-wide cap of machines, no sinking lid and still allows relocation (within allowed areas) and club mergers. This is precisely what the industry wants as it will not change the amount of money spent on pokies. 

With the intent of reducing gambling harm in our city without kneecapping community groups, I’m recommending a gradual reduction of machines through the adoption of a sinking lid, no relocations and I’m supporting the proposed lowering of the cap.

I urge you to submit and let Council know your thoughts on this important policy.

The Statement of Proposal which is being consulted on is on the NCC website: https://www.sayitnapier.nz/assets/Uploads/2020-Statement-of-Proposal-Gambling-Venues-Policy.pdf; it is available to be downloaded from that link. You can submit your response online or download a hard copy from the council page.  

For those of you (like me) who prefer hard copy of the proposal and submission form, these are available at the Customer Service Centre (Hastings Street) or the Taradale Library. Call Customer Service at 06 835 7579 if you need some assistance.

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1 Comment

  1. I am surprised that there is no sinking lid and that relocation of licence is still possible. When I was still with Diabetes Hawkes Bay we debated these two issues and the subsequent possible effect on our income. The decision was decidedly in favour of sinking lid and the abolition of the relocation of venues when a venue closed. We now have a brand new, visually exciting and alluring venue particularly attractive to children and young teens,in the middle of Emerson St. Whose smart idea was this?

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