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Sinking lid gambling policy aims to reduce problem gambling harm

gaming machines

A Hastings District Council hearings committee position to change to a sinking lid gambling policy for Hastings, in a bid to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling, will go to the full council for ratification next week.

For the last three years, Council has had a cap on gaming machine numbers for class 4 venues, set at 293 machines, along with an open TAB venue policy.

Under the Gambling Act 2003 and Racing Industry Act 2020 Councils are required to implement gambling policies that need to be reviewed every three years.

In September this year, Council released the statement of proposal calling for submissions on its proposed direction to govern gaming venues in its district.

The district planning and bylaws subcommittee recommended introducing a sinking lid with no relocation policy, aimed at reducing machines in the district over time. A cap of one TAB venue for the district was also proposed.

In putting forward its recommendations the subcommittee noted that problem gambling disproportionately affected deprived and low income families in the Hastings district, and that increased gambling availability had resulted in an increase in problem gambling particularly among Māori and lower socio-economic groups.  

As a result, 46 submissions were received, both in opposition and support to the proposal.

After considering the written and oral submissions, the hearings committee decided to adopt the proposed sinking lid policy that would ban any new gaming machines or venues being introduced in the district.

Existing licence holders could, however, under certain conditions relocate their premises within specified zones, mainly in commercial areas of the district, in order to avoid venues being established in high-deprivation areas.

The cap of the one TAB venue in the district was retained.

The hearings committee noted concerns that a reduction in gaming machines would result in people turning to online gambling, where there were less controls on behaviour than traditional gaming venues.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said council was very aware and grateful to funding from gambling trusts, which went to community groups for sports, the arts and events.

“This is particularly important during an exceptionally hard year like this one, however, we are also highly conscious of the need to reduce the harm caused by gambling, especially given the dramatic rise of online gambling, from which no local funding is received at all.”

Council plans to lobby government to regulate the online gambling industry over the coming year.

4 December 2020

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