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Alcohol & Gambling Bills

Will Alcohol & Gambling Bills Still Leave Social Service Agencies Picking Up The Pieces?”

- A JOINT MEDIA RELEASE FROM HAMILTON COUNCIL OF CHRISTIAN SOCIAL SERVICES &
- POVERTY ACTION WAIKATO

With Hamilton’s two main foodbanks reporting continuing increased demand, growing Housing Corporation waiting lists, and rising living costs, the Hamilton Council of Christian Social Services (HCOCSS) and Poverty Action Waikato (PAW) see two great legislative opportunities to “build some fences at the top of the cliff” and thereby significantly reduce suffering and deprivation in our communities.

This coming week MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s ‘Gambling Harm Reduction Bill’ is due to have its first reading in Parliament. HCOCSS and PAW welcome this attempt to strengthen the Gambling Act (2003).

Both local social service /social justice collectives are calling on politicians from all parties to support what has been dubbed the “People before Pokies Bill”. Flavell’s Bill seeks to give local authorities the power to keep the number of pokie machines down or eliminate them completely from our cities, towns and villages. “Pokie machines tear the heart out of our communities. This bill can make a difference.” Rose Black, Poverty Action Waikato spokesperson says.

Pokies have been shown to be the most harmful form of gambling, with over 70% of those seeking help with problem gambling indicating it is the main way they gamble. Problem Gambling Foundation statistics suggest that around $2.5 million is lost every day on the country’s 18,601 non-casino pokie machines and that 1 in 4 people who play pokies regularly will develop a gambling problem.

Gambling venues are strategically located in poorer areas. In more affluent areas there is 1 pokie machine for every 465 people compared to 1 pokie machine for every 75 people in poorer areas. Pokie machines are placed to prey on our most vulnerable communities.
“We want less pokie machines. And we want to see more of the revenue from pokie machines to go towards strengthening community services especially the very communities the money is coming from in the first place”.

“When we ask people what poverty means in their communities they talk of drug and alcohol abuse, violence and gambling. The proliferation of pokies machines and liquor outlets support the growth of poverty. We want to make a difference to the most vulnerable people in our communities by reducing and eliminating gambling outlets.

This bill makes sense. Pokies machines are an economic drain. Poverty Action Waikato supports the gambling restrictions, review and discussion that Te Ururoa Flavell’s bill calls for. We call on all politicians to do the same.

Alcohol Action NZ, a coalition of health professionals, scientists and other concerned New Zealanders are calling on the government to “do more than just tinker”, on the eve of the first reading of the Alcohol Reform Bill in Parliament.

The Law Commission’s earlier review of our liquor laws has been a once in a generation opportunity to confront our heavy drinking culture. But recent announcements by the government suggest they are reluctant to challenge the power of the alcohol industry.

“Education campaigns and just hoping the 700,000 heavy drinkers in NZ will spontaneously begin to act with more self-responsibility is obviously inadequate. What is needed is a set of new regulations that better control the commercial forces pushing alcohol in our society”, says Alcohol Action NZ.

Alcohol Action NZ is calling for increases to alcohol prices, the purchase age, drink-driving counter measures and treatment opportunities and reductions in alcohol accessibility and marketing.

Interestingly, these are the same measures that worked with transforming the smoking culture over the last forty years.
Hamilton Council of Christian Social Services spokesperson Lindsay Cumberpatch said its eight constituent agencies were “picking up the pieces in terms of alcohol abuse and problem gambling every day. We can’t afford to squander this opportunity to limit the damage being done to untold individuals and families across the country”.

Hamilton Council of Christian Social Services and Poverty Action Waikato are calling on people to contact local MPs
David Bennett (david.bennett@parliament.govt.nz), Tim Mcindoe (tim.mcindoe@parliament.govt.nz),
Nanaia Mahuta (nanaia.mahuta@parliament.govt.nz) and Sue Moroney (sue.moroney@parliament.govt.nz) encouraging them to support both opportunities to deal to two major social problems in NZ that are exacerbating poverty and deprivation in this land of plenty.
The MPs can also be contacted c/o Freepost Parliament, Private Bag 18 888, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160.

ENDS

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