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Board votes to control pokies

SIMON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012

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The number of places with pokies across Auckland will have a limit if the Howick Local Board gets its way.

The board voted at its November meeting to support a regionwide cap on non-casino pokie machine venues and to have restrictions on where they can be.

It also does not want the number of machines to increase at any one club, but would allow clubs to merge as long as the total number of pokies drops.

Auckland Council is required by the Gambling Act 2003 to adopt a Class 4 gambling policy and is asking all 21 local boards for their opinions.

A council presentation to the board says there are 4219 pokie machines in 305 venues across Auckland.

Last year $247 million was lost in non-casino machines which were more likely to be located in areas of high deprivation and low income.

Non-casino pokies are the mode of gambling for 72 per cent of problem gamblers, although these make up less than 4 per cent of gamblers.

But between 40 and 50 per cent of pokie machine profits come from problem gambling, the presentation says.

At the local board meeting, council principal policy analyst Richard Butler said other boards are "pretty much split" on having a sinking lid policy or a cap.

"There's quite a mix of views amongst local boards."

He said that unlike pokie machines, phone and online betting have no restrictions and have been increasing in popularity.

Board member Lucy Schwaner said she was concerned community funding might dwindle if a sinking lid policy decreases pokie machine outlets until there are none left.

The local board decided not to voice an opinion on TABs.

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- Eastern Courier

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