More pokies, more social problems

WILLI JACKSON
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013

I'm not a gambler throwing money into a machine or on a horse. Apart from the odd Melbourne Cup sweepstake, gambling has never been part of my make-up.

But for too many Maori the pokies, gambling and punting play a big part in their lives.

For some low socio economic families, striking the jackpot at the local tavern can be the difference between filet mignon and filleted sardines on toast.

We've all heard of the good and bad gambling stories but more often it's the bad stories that outweigh the good - it's a numbers game.

It's like smoking. We all know it's bad for you but it is your choice to either smoke or not.

Gambling is the same.

When I was an MP, I called on Tainui to pull out of the Hamilton Casino development because in my view it was exploiting the Maori gambling problem.

My view of casinos and their exploitation of Maori hasn't changed.

But the real culprits here are the bars and taverns Maori, especially our women, congregate to.

What these places have created is an acceptance to go to a bar alone at 11am.

Turn the clock back a few years and women would not go into bars unless accompanied by friends or whanau.

Now mums can drop the kids at school and go and drop $20 or $40 into a machine.

That's why I agree with the Auckland Council's sinking lid policy on pokie machines which is about poker machine reduction. This policy though seems bizarre and out of step with the Government which passed legislation allowing SkyCity Casino more of the one-armed bandits in return for a new convention centre.

Even that's weird because the times I've been to the casino - remember I'm not a gambler - there are always vacant machines. So what's a few more hundred vacant machines?

The deal means Auckland will finally get a decent convention centre, costing the casino $402 million. In exchange SkyCity gets:

An additional 230 pokie machines on the casino floor An extension of its Auckland casino licence, which was due to expire in 2021, out to June 30, 2048, and an amendment to cover all of SkyCity's properties in Federal St An extra 40 gaming tables A further 12 gaming tables that can be substituted for automated table game player stations Up to 17 per cent of pokie machines and automatic table games being able to accept banknotes of denominations greater than $20.

That's quite a bit of concession for their SkyCity bucks and I think the odds are stacked in their favour to make money - after all, that's what a casino does.

And the house never loses. You can bet on that!

- Manukau Courier

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