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Pokie operators must heed the community

Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Internal Affairs

4 March 2008
Media Statement

Pokie operators must heed the community

Internal Affairs Minister, Rick Barker today warned gaming machine operators they must listen to community concerns about the way funds are distributed.

Opening the New Zealand Gaming Expo in Auckland Mr Barker said gaming machine societies were expected to be very transparent about their activities and must justify their priorities and grant decisions to the community.

Recalling a recent case of a gaming society allocating funds to racing Mr Barker said the society had not acted illegally but appeared reluctant to assume public responsibility for the decisions it has made.

“The press reports I have seen manage to convey the impression that the Department ‘approved’ the distribution of these funds,” Mr Barker said.

“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.

"The purpose of the Gambling 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 and 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.”

Mr Barker said he expected the Department to be a strong and effective regulator of the gambling industry and all those involved in the sector to work to achieve positive community outcomes.

“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.

“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 and take steps to enhance the safety of their operations.

“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," Mr Barker said.


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