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Revised gambling policy to go out for public consultation

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A proposed policy to reduce the number of gaming machines and restrict the number of TAB venues in Hastings district is to go out for public consultation this month.

Under the Gambling Act 2003 and Racing Act 2003 territorial authorities are required to have policies so they and their communities can have a say in how gambling operates in their districts, and amend policies if gambling harm is considered an issue.

These policies are required to be reviewed once every three years.

In December 2019, Department of Internal Affairs research showed that in Hastings people were playing more games on pokie machines, spending longer hours, and betting more per game since the council’s last policy review in 2017.

In putting forward its recommendations to the full council, the district planning and bylaws subcommittee noted that problem gambling disproportionately affected deprived and low income families in the Hastings district.

The subcommittee’s Heretaunga Takoto Noa Māori Standing Committee representative Tania Eden said the Hastings community recognised that availability and accessibility of gambling opportunities is one of the strongest predictors of problem gambling.  

“Put simply, there is a general consensus that increased gambling availability has resulted in an increase in problem gambling particularly among Māori and lower socio-economic groups.  

Māori nationally are over-represented as problem gamblers and this is no different in Hastings.

“Anecdotal evidence from whānau shows gambling behaviour and its consequences can result in loss of employment, housing evictions and mortgagee sales, child neglect, domestic violence, financial loss, disadvantage and poverty.  It is intended that the sinking lid policy if adopted will assist with reducing the impacts of gambling on the health and wellbeing of whānau.”  

While some gaming machine profits came back to the community through grants, the community harm caused, especially in vulnerable communities, was considered to outweigh those financial benefits.

District planning and bylaws subcommittee chair Kevin Watkins said all the options and initial submissions were looked at thoroughly and the subcommittee was unanimous in its support of the draft recommendations.

“Sending this out for public submissions sends a strong signal to the community about the harm gambling generates that cannot be sustained at this level.”

At a full council meeting today, the draft recommendations were adopted.

Depending on the outcome from consultation with the community the proposed sinking lid policy would mean Hastings District Council would reduce the current number of total gaming machines allowed from 293 machines to 278, and would not allow any new machines or venues to start up if a venue closes.

Over time, this would result in their being fewer pokie machines in total.

In addition it was recommended that venues not be allowed to move their licence to another premise.

In terms of TAB venues, the subcommittee recommended that council move from an open policy for TAB venues to a capped policy of one TAB standalone venue in Hastings district.

The proposal will now be open for public submissions from September 12 to October 12.

From September 12 people will be able to submit online through www.myvoicemychoice.co.nz or submission forms can be collected from the Hastings, Flaxmere and Havelock North libraries.

3 September 2020

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