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Judicial Review Needed To Make New Gambling Regulations Workable And Effective

The Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand (GMANZ) will be part of a High Court hearing today alongside three of its members which are seeking a Judicial Review of aspects of DIA’s new gambling regulations. The final part of the new regulations is scheduled to come into effect on 1 December, less than two weeks after the High Court hearing.

The proceedings seek to review both the extent of consultation in the development of the new regulations, and their provisions, including the extent of the surveillance of all players and the reporting requirements imposed. GMANZ supports effective regulation that reduces potential harm but is concerned that many of the provisions in the new regulations are unreasonable, irrational, and unworkable, and are emblematic of much larger problems in the Class 4 gambling regulation space.

“The way these new regulations were developed without proper consultation is a continuation of the way the Government has treated those of us at the coal face” said Peter Dengate Thrush, Independent Chair of GMANZ. ”Who are better to identify potential harm than the people working in the venues? Many of the proposed regulations pay lip service to harm minimisation – or may cause more harm – and are decisions made by technocrats who have zero experience inside Class 4 venues.”

“There are serious workability issues with the new regulations, for example cash withdrawal duties and the associated gaming area sweep duties.” says Dengate Thrush.

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“A recent independent KPMG report indicated that it is very difficult to accurately record why a customer is withdrawing money. Class 4 venues are pubs, bars, and clubs, it is not easy to tell what withdrawn cash will be used for. Two withdrawals in a day being deemed a sign of gambling harm may lead to incorrect assumptions.”

“The new regulations also require a staff member to record every person in a gaming room every 20 minutes, and to record their description for future reference. This could be 20 people, three times per hour, every hour for 12 or 14 trading hours per day,” says Dengate Thrush. “That’s 720 recordings per day, or about a quarter-million per year. The staff have to do this work while also pouring drinks, cleaning up, monitoring intoxication, and everything else required of a responsible venue host. Our venue operators consider this unworkable. We have raised these concerns with DIA on a number of occasions, in person, via workshops and webinars, they are completely unwilling to hear us.”

“Our issues with these regulations symbolise a much larger, more pervasive problem which is that our industry regulator is not working as well as it could,” says Dengate Thrush. “The new regulations aren’t anchored in the reality of Class 4 venues or their staff who do the brunt of that front-line problem gambling reduction work. The regulator doesn’t seem to be listening to the industry and is instead spinning up unworkable regulations to justify itself.

“We want non-compliant bad actors in our industry to be prosecuted as much as anyone. But this type of regulation in this industry is just not good enough – our people at the coal-face deserve better.”

“When the previous Government announced these regulations, we were clear that they didn’t go far enough to effectively address harm. We wanted a collaborative industry approach with nationally recognised training and qualifications for venue managers and staff to manage gaming rooms. We are advocating for use of the problem gambling levy funds for this training and for investment in technology like facial recognition for additional protection and support,” says Dengate Thrush.

“The common ground across the industry is reducing harm as identified and support for those who need it.

“None of our members want anyone harmed in any venues. We want any hosts not taking their responsibility seriously to be targeted and those not following processes to face prosecution. These regulations may make things worse. We need the Department of Internal Affairs to actually listen to us as an important part of the ecosystem” says Dengate Thrush.

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