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Dunne: UF delivers Gambling Bill aces

Media Statement For immediate release Wednesday, 3 September, 2003

Dunne: UF delivers Gambling Bill aces

Gambling profits raised in local communities will go back to those communities after United Future negotiations with the Government put paid to the idea of centralised distribution and the whole new bureaucracy that it would have required.

"We were strongly opposed to the Green-driven clause centralising all profits and having them dolled out from afar by some politically-correct bureaucracy," United Future leader Peter Dunne said today.

"Frankly, it was lunacy, and a fine example of the old idiom, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'," he said, after successful negotiations for a number of changes to the Responsible Gambling Bill, which should move to the committee stage tomorrow.

"We made it very clear that this bill would not have our backing while a centralised profit-grab remained.

"Now if the Night Caps Rugby Club needs $500, the merits of its case will be decided in that area, and likewise those who best know local needs will decide on grants for the likes of the Kaikohe Bonsai Association, and the Reefton Potters Guild.

"Local trusts know local needs. The last thing we needed was another layer of bureaucracy.

"Well-structured, accountable charitable trusts always have and always will have a better feel for what is needed in their communities than a centralised monolith in Wellington," he said.

Another key change United Future has negotiated into the Government's supplementary order paper (SOP) for the bill was gaming industry consultation on the problem gambling levy.

"The way the bill was initially drafted, the Health Ministry had virtual carte blanche to say to the industry: 'Here is what we plan to do for problem gamblers and this is what you have to pay'.

"They could basically name the figure and the industry would have had to just stump up with the cash with no consultation, explanation or justification required.

"That was clearly wrong, and the amendment we've negotiated means that the problem gambling levy will be decided by the Health Ministry in consultation with gaming industry representatives," Mr Dunne said.

Other key changes secured by United Future include:

* The Gaming Commission, as an appellate body, will be totally independent of Internal Affairs gaming authorities and report directly to the Minister, and not the department.

* The overturning of the Government Administration Select Committee ban on note-accepting gaming machines, with maximum $20 note-acceptor machines permissible, in line with Australian standards.

United Future's internal affairs spokesman Marc Alexander added that the party was very happy with a number of Labour amendments agreed during negotiations and contained in the SOP.

"We're particularly pleased with the changes allowing the Lotteries Commission to move into Internet-based gaming.

"And it was crucial that a strong stance was taken against under-age gambling, and this has been achieved with a strengthened commitment to keeping key venues free of gaming," Mr Alexander said.

"We will certainly not see gaming machines in dairies, supermarkets and the likes, which could only encourage teenage gambling," he said.


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