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Barker: New Zealand Gaming Expo speech


Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Internal Affairs

4 March 2008
Speech

New Zealand Gaming Expo speech

Hon Rick Barker's address to mark the opening of New Zealand Gaming Expo, SKYCITY, Auckland.

Acknowledgements

- Ross Ferrar, (Executive Officer, AGMMA)
- Fellow speakers
- Invited guests from New Zealand and abroad

Introduction

Thank you Ross, and the Australian Gaming Machine Manufacturers Association, for the invitation to open the 2008 New Zealand Gaming Expo. I’m very pleased to be here. As the Minister responsible for the Gambling Act and gambling policy in New Zealand, I’d like to welcome you all here today.

This event is always a great opportunity to see the latest gambling equipment, technology and services, and I trust that you’ll enjoy the occasion. This is also an opportunity to discuss issues relating to gambling in New Zealand and I urge you to take a moment to consider what the Gambling Act is seeking to achieve.

The Gambling Act

The purpose of the Act is to ensure that the community benefits from the proceeds of gambling, that gambling harm is prevented and minimised, and that responsible gambling is facilitated. The community is our primary stakeholder group. Community interests include groups for whom gambling provides funds, problem gamblers and their families, and organizations that provide gambling services and research into the social effects of gambling.

Class 4 gambling

Spending on non-casino gaming machines today is still more than double the amount spent in 2000. Along with efficiency gains in the sector, that means that communities receive far more money from these machines now than they did only a few years ago. However, the future of Class 4 gambling depends on maintaining a balance between the provision of gambling for community fundraising purposes and ensuring that any harm resulting from that gambling is prevented and minimised.

I expect the Department of Internal Affairs to take a leading role in facilitating the achievement of the Act’s objectives and ensuring this balance is met.


I also expect the Department to be a strong and effective regulator of the gambling industry. This includes advising and educating operators to achieve voluntary compliance and high standards of practice, with effective enforcement for those who break the rules. The Department is also responsible for leading and advising on the development of higher level policy. Achieving positive outcomes for the community is also a top priority.

Achieving positive community outcomes is not just an objective for the Department. I expect all those involved in the sector to be working within the framework of the Act, pursuing objectives that are consistent with its principles and practices.

First do no harm

In particular, we all need to work together to effectively reduce gambling related harm. Coordinated action of this kind benefits both the wider community and the long term viability of the sector.

- Desirable outcomes for gambling in New Zealand include:
- The benefits of gambling outweigh the costs
- Communities are engaged, empowered and informed in relation to gambling
- Gambling is operated with integrity
- Gambling related harm is prevented and minimised
- Gambling related crime is prevented.

Gambling operators for example, should be responsible corporate citizens who operate on the principle ‘first do no harm’, are aware of the social impact of gambling, take steps to enhance the safety of their operations and willingly comply with the letter and spirit of the law.

I have been disappointed to see instances where a legalistic approach is taken to meeting responsibilities, with societies acting in ways that can only be described as self serving. While it is imperative that the legal requirements outlined in the Act are met, societies are expected to recognise the Act’s objectives in their decision making, both in terms of their day-to-day operations and in their planning for the future. Harm prevention and minimisation, and maximising community benefits should be the ultimate goal.

I’ll mention one example. There are others. A gaming society has recently received media attention over its allocation of gaming machine funds, in this case to racing purposes. The society hasn’t acted illegally but appeared reluctant to assume public responsibility for the decisions it has made.

Responsibilities of Societies

The press reports I have seen manage to convey the impression that Department "approved" the distribution of these funds. The Department of Internal Affairs’ did not. Its role is simply to ensure that gaming machine proceeds are distributed to authorised purposes. It is up to Gaming Machine societies to decide where funds go and then to be accountable for those decisions.

However, when societies retained this power with the passing of the Gambling Act it was based on the understanding that they would be very transparent about what they were doing. That community needs and priorities would be at the forefront of their allocation decisions. It is up to societies to justify to the community the priorities it has adopted and the grant decisions it has made.

There are now far greater levels of community awareness about gambling. People want to know where the sector is going and how they can have a say on how the sector should be shaped in the future.

Determining whether the benefits from gambling outweigh the costs is really a matter for the wider community. One of the most important aspects of the Gambling Act is that it gives our communities a voice. We all need to make sure we keep listening.

As I have said, I expect to see all those involved in the sector to be working within the framework of the Act, pursuing objectives that are consistent with its principles and practices.

Gambling Amendment Bill

Most of you will be aware that there’s a Gambling Amendment Bill before Parliament at the moment. The Bill will make a number of minor policy and technical amendments to the Act so that it works as intended. I anticipate that the Bill will become law later this year.

The Act is still relatively new, and as you will appreciate, needs to be given a chance to work. The industry should take this opportunity to show that it can be responsible, can operate within the framework of the Act and that a closely aligned vision may be achieved. Government, the Department, and I’m sure the public, will be watching closely. I hope we can continue to work together to successfully deliver on the objectives of the Act.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s my pleasure to open the New Zealand Gaming Expo 2008. I wish you all an enjoyable and productive time. Enjoy the spectacle and the new products on display. But please also take the opportunity to think and talk about what the Gambling Act is intended achieve, and how the industry can make a contribution to those objectives. The future of the industry is largely in your hands.

Thank you.


ENDS

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