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Pokies take $3.3 million from small towns


Te Ururoa Flavell

Maori Party MP for Waiariki

Sponsor of the Gambling Harm Reduction Bill

15 November 2010


Pokies take $3.3 million from small Eastern Bay towns

Maori Party MP for Waiariki Te Ururoa Flavell is calling on iwi, community and civic leaders in the Eastern Bay of Plenty to get behind the people before pokies campaign.

"The figures tell a depressing story because I know the majority of people in Opotiki, Kawerau and Whakatane simply can't afford to gamble and that if they do, then that is coming at a huge cost to their children, their families and sometimes their freedom," Mr Flavell said.

Figures from the Department of Internal Affairs showed that from January 2009 to March this year, a total of $3.3 million was sourced from pokies in the three Eastern Bay towns (Opotiki spent about $570,000; Kawerau spent about $600,000 and Whakatane spent about $2.1 million).

"That money could build kohanga, homes and training programmes in the Eastern Bay but the bulk of it is going out of their local economy,” Mr Flavell said.

"Unemployment and beneficiary dependency rates in the Eastern Bay are among the highest in the country so the need for there to be strong leadership on this issue must start within our homes, our hapu and in the community."

Of 75 areas throughout the country, and on a per adult capita basis, Opotiki had the second highest number of pokie machines or five times more than Auckland City, while Kawerau had two times more than Wellington City and Whakatane had two times more than North Shore City.

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Mr Flavell said he had faith in the people of the Eastern Bay to stop the pokie epidemic from spinning out of control but that it would require them to muster as must strength as possible.

Mr Flavell's Gambling Harm Reduction Bill was due to come before Parliament for its first vote by the end of the year. It would allow local communities, rather than gaming societies, to determine whether or not they wanted pokie machines in their areas.

"This country's law makers too must show they have the political will to affect change and to protect people."

The societies, which manage gaming machines and proceeds, were required by law to distribute a minimum of 37% of the proceeds to community and charitable groups anywhere in the country and not necessarily in the areas where the money came from.


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