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Everyone able to "enjoy" gambling under National

15 September 2005

National’s hard-to-find policy will allow everyone to “enjoy” gambling

The very quiet release of the National Party’s gambling policy – not published on its website or in any hard copy format available to the public – should “raise concerns in every New Zealand community that fought battles two years ago to limit the unregulated growth of the pokie industry” .

Gambling issues lobby group GamblingWatch said the policy only became known yesterday when it was sent in an email from Don Brash’s office to a gambling addiction service; previous attempts to secure a copy from the party had not met with success.

The policy, released by spokesperson Lindsay Tisch, summarises, “National is committed to a robust, transparent industry where everyone can enjoy a game of chance and New Zealand as a whole benefits.”

“In a country where around 7,000 new people report in with gambling addiction problems every year, mainly as a result of gambling on the country ’s 25,000 pokie machines in 1,800 different sites, I would have thought there was more than enough opportunity for people to gamble right now,” said GamblingWatch co-ordinator Dave Macpherson.

The policy has attacked the current Government quite correctly for allowing the unregulated expansion of Lotto outlets, “but National’s implied solution to allow pokie bars the same license is a return to the unregulated cowboy days of pokie bars on every street corner.”

“Its just plain irresponsible, and flies in the face of all the hard lessons this country has learnt about gambling addiction in recent years.”

In another section of it’s extremely brief policy, National has signaled an increase in ‘site payments’ for pubs and bars that house pokie machines.

“This is another piece of stupidity,” said Mr Macpherson. “Department of Internal Affairs analysis has shown that higher site rental payments were the primary cause of the spiraling growth of pokie bar numbers up until September 2003.”

“There was clear evidence that the ease of access to pokie machines around the country was exacerbating gambling addiction problems in this country, and now National wants us to risk a return to those days,” Mr Macpherson said.

“National seems to be echoing the gambling industry’s self-serving claim that recent overdue regulations on the pokie industry will mean less money distributed to the community.”

“There is no evidence to back that claim – indeed there has been an increase in the amount distributed every year since we had pokie machines, despite a small drop in machine numbers each year.”

“Only this week the DIA has stated that they expect the current high distribution figures to continue, and of course, further gains in this area can most easily be achieved by reducing the $300 million or more pokie owners and operators cream off the top from punters’ losses,” he added.

“All in all, National’s gambling policy has the look of a position paper written by the gambling industry for a party they expect will wind the clock back.”

“This is no particular surprise, given the National Party’s receipt of a $50,000 election year grant from Sky City Casino last election – we wonder how much they have been donated this election year?”

ENDS

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