Businesses want slice of pokie profits

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 14:51 16/01/2013

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Bars and restaurants want profits from pokie machines in recognition for the significant funds they raise for the community.

But opposition MPs have called on the Government to turn down the proposal from Hospitality New Zealand.

Gaming advocate and Hospitality New Zealand board member Reg Hennessy said gaming machines had been the focus of his group's revamped Hospitality 5-point plan.

He said a commission-based payment system delivering fairness, transparency and probity was critical to ensure that the sector was fairly remunerated for raising significant funds for the community.

Hospitality New Zealand wants its members to be able to claim 16 per cent of pokie machine profits and the removal of the requirement for 37 per cent of takings to be returned to community groups.

Hennessy also said allowing pokies in new venues would help "modernise" hospitality and meet the needs of new suburbs.

Local government did not want to share the proceeds of pokie machines, he said.

"Venue operators are seeking fairness, clarity, transparency within the part they play in raising funds for the community," Hennessy said.

Green MP Denise Roche said the suggestion would encourage bar owners to support and promote problem gambling.

"Currently pub and restaurant owners who don't own pokie machines are allowed to be compensated for any expenses incurred by hosting them, but they can't make a profit off them," she said.

Pokies were the most dangerous form of gambling and needed to be effectively monitored, she said.

"The Green Party rejects any move that would weaken gambling law, whether that's incentivising pub owners to encourage more gambling, or changing the law so SkyCity can have more pokie machines in exchange for a convention centre for Auckland," Roche said.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson said reducing gambling harm should be the first priority, not securing a cut of profits.

Allowing bar owners to take profits would be completely at odds with harm minimisation work, she said.

She also opposed the call for having pokie machines in new venues.

"Transferring pokie machines would directly undermine the informed decision-making processes of local councils," Dyson said.

"It would see pokies moved from low-profit areas into areas already battling with problem gambling."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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