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Upper Hutt City Council’s Draft Gambling Policy Fails To Address Harm

The Problem Gambling Foundation is concerned at the Upper Hutt City Council’s draft gambling policy which as it stands will be ineffective in reducing gambling harm from pokies and controlling the growth of gambling in the region.

Problem Gambling Foundation CEO, Paula Snowden says pokies in pubs and clubs are the most harmful form of gambling in Aotearoa New Zealand, yet the Council’s draft policy doesn’t even include an option for a sinking lid policy.

“A sinking lid policy is the best policy available to keep the number of pokies down in the community. Not only has the Council omitted it from the policy options, but it has left the door open for more pokies by setting the cap higher than the current number of machines,” she says.

A sinking lid policy means no new licenses for pokie machines can be issued, and pokie machines cannot be transferred to a new pub or owner if the venue closes.

Paula Snowden says more than $10.3 million was lost on pokies in Upper Hutt City in 2019 with the region receiving a mere $796,000 in funding from pokie trusts or societies between 1 January 2019 and 31 March 2020.

“That is a huge amount of money coming out of the community in comparison to what is going back in the form of grants to the community, and problem gamblers are contributing approximately 30% of that, if not more,” she says.

The Department of Internal Affairs estimates that approximately 30% of pokie losses come from moderate-risk or problem gamblers – or 1.3% of people.

Paula Snowden says the Council should be focused on where the money is coming from instead of where it is going, because it is coming out of the pockets of people who can’t afford to lose it.

Ten of Upper Hutt City’s 12 pokie venues are situated in ‘very high’ socioeconomic deprivation areas and one is situated in a ‘medium high’ deprivation area.

An attempt by Upper Hutt City Councillor Angela McLeod to include a sinking lid in the options for public consultation was voted down by the Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC) Policy Committee in February.

“I’m disappointed in the lack of support for a sinking lid policy to go out for consultation. As a Council we need to demonstrate we are serious about looking after the Upper Hutt community,” Cr McLeod said.

“A third of all Territorial Local Authorities nationwide have adopted a sinking lid and to not include it as an option during consultation makes a mockery of the entire process.”

Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC) is now seeking feedback on its proposed gambling policies for Class 4 gaming machine venues (“Pokies”) and New Zealand Racing Board Venues (including TAB).

The Problem Gambling Foundation is urging people to have their say on pokies in Upper Hutt City. Submissions close 19 July 2020. Submission forms are available on the Council’s website here.

If you would like to know more about community funding from pokies, read a paper authored by Hapai Te Hauora Tapui, The Salvation Army, and PGF Group here

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