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Gambling Amendment Bill - In Committee - Te Ururoa Flavell

Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill

In Committee; Wednesday 7 August 2013

Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-leader of the Maori Party

The committee stage of the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill was completed and the bill reported without amendment.

Te Ururoa Flavell; Co-leader, Māori Party : Kia ora tātou katoa. This being the first time having a bill in Parliament under my name as a private member, it is pretty special—it must be so special that I did not realise I had to stay in the chair all of the time, so I apologise to you, Mr Chair, for that.

But it is a real privilege to be able to have an actual bill on the  Table of the House of Parliament under my name and, in particular, under the name of the Māori Party. If I stray a little bit, hopefully you will be able to give me a hand, Mr Chair. I do not think I want to traverse too many of the negative effects of gambling. They were well traversed in the first and second readings of the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill so I will leave those there.

Aside from the fact that some have suggested that the bill might well have been cut well back, for my part the great thing about this particular bill from its very inception was the discussion. It brought to the table all of the very many parties that have an interest all across the board, whether they be people who ask for money or whether they be controlling the money or distributing the money. The great thing is that it has allowed the debate to happen.

I want to thank the  Commerce Committee, which listened to all of those many submissions. I want to also thank the Minister of Internal Affairs who, while we talked through this bill, worked with me to look not only at my particular bill but also the longer vision. So I pay tribute to the Hon Chris Tremain and his office for working with us to look not just at this bill, because it does not have to be seen just in this bill alone, but also at subsequent bills that may well come through from the National Party and, indeed, from the Minister in the course of time—hopefully before the end of the year.

When we set out the original bill, there were a couple of points that I wanted to make in respect of the original bill. For starters, we wanted to cut out racing and racing stake money as an authorised charitable purpose. Our reason for that was that we should not give special consideration to this industry when community organisations are so short of funding.

Aside from that, it seems such a contradiction that you put money into a machine that coughs up some benefits that supposedly go to the community and yet it ends up going as prize money to racing. It just seems such a huge contradiction, which is why we put it in in the first instance. The Government generally disagreed with that, saying that it would have too much of a negative impact on the racing industry, and others will probably support that view.

The second part was that the original bill had a condition that at least 80 percent of the funds derived from class 4 gambling would be distributed to the community from which they came. It would be implemented by a condition on the mandatory licence that societies have to apply for to operate gaming machines. Again, the Government said that that would not work because societies can challenge the conditions of their licence.

But the Government did say that it supported the idea of making sure funds from pokies went back to the communities of origin, and that was at the very heart of our particular bill. So we believe the bill in its current form does, in fact, allow that to happen, although through regulation.

The third part of the bill required territorial authorities to take control of distributing proceeds from gaming. There is no longer any need for societies—I believe it was in the select committee process that we heard across the board about a number of exercises in the past where societies had been caught having rorted the system in one form or another. The Government did not necessarily agree—and the vast majority of the submitters did not necessarily—that local authorities should take up that rein, but the Government did say that there is a need for greater transparency of the current grant system, taking away the risk of rorts and dodgy dealings. We believe it is partly covered in my bill but also will be followed up in further legislation down the line.

If I can just talk to the fourth part of the bill, it allowed for public sentiment and evidence of harm to be specific criteria when territorial authorities are developing their venue policies and for those criteria to be a reason for reducing the number of pokie machines in that area. I believe some of Mr Mallard’s amendments sort of cover that. The Government did not agree with this, saying that this would impact unfairly on existing venues, but it wanted to instead allow venues, with permission from territorial authorities, to move their pokie machines out of harms’ way—perhaps to central business districts, but not to low-decile areas. I believe that that has been dealt with in the bill. The final part is that the original bill wanted harm minimisation devices to be put into all gambling machines, like  pre-commit cards and player tracking.

I was lucky enough to be invited to go and have a look—I believe it was in Hamilton—at some of these facial recognition machines and see how they worked. To me, as somebody coming into that and having a look at it, on the face of it, they actually worked: —yes—but I have since been told that there are all sorts of difficulties with technology that may well put that in question.

Of course, I also heard evidence from overseas, and Australia in particular, that things like pre-commit cards and playing tracking have not yet necessarily been tested in full to ensure that there are no hiccups in how those devices are used. So the Government did not agree because of the whole changing of technology over time, simply because there was not enough information, but the Minister in working with me did however support the development of regulations to support the implementation of harm minimisation technology, which I believe is very much at the heart of the bill.

So as we go through the Committee stage today, I am happy that there are a large number of amendments to the bill. The Māori Party took consideration of those. Many of them it will be supporting. Many of them it will not be. But I am pleased that across the House, from the Greens and from Labour, that we have been able to have a number of amendments that will contribute to the discussion, if not to the end outcome. I think that it is important that we put that on the record. So with that, I thank members for their contributions tonight and look forward to the debate. Kia ora tātou.


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