Trusts take swipe at pokies bill

NICOLE MCDOUGALL
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2012

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Southern licensing trusts are not in favour of a proposed bill that could increase the amount of money going back into the community from pokie machines.

The Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill, put forward by MP Te Ururoa Flavell, will require councils to set up independent committees to distribute pokie machine proceeds and aim to give the community more say on how the proceeds are spent.

Green Party gambling spokeswoman Denise Roche said pokie trusts operating in the south returned more than 53 per cent of the $17.6 million lost annually into its pokie machines.

The proposed bill aimed to increase the amount to 80 per cent.

Both the Invercargill Licensing Trust Foundation and Mataura Licensing Trust did not believe the increase was warranted.

Invercargill Licensing Trust Foundation chairman Alan Dennis said 80 per cent was ridiculous.

"Every cent is already returned to Invercargill ... (they) are dreaming if they think 80 per cent will be returned. It's a nonsense.

"Their 80 per cent is absolutely ridiculous."

Mr Dennis said the ILT Foundation, which owns more than half the pokie machines in the city, last year returned $5.8m, which was 60 per cent of the profits, he said.

Parts of the bill had been hastily put together and ill thought-out, he said.

The foundation would be making a submission, he said.

Ms Roche said the trusts returned more than 50 per cent and the rest was used for administration costs or went back to the Government in GST and levies.

Community and sporting groups could stand to benefit by almost $4.7m annually, she said.

"The three largest pokie trusts in Southland would all have to increase their community and sporting grants by over $1 million annually if the Flavell bill goes through."

Mataura Licensing Trust general manager John Wyeth said it would be disappointing if the bill passed.

The trust gave back about $600,000 a year and if the bill were passed it would mean another organisation outside the Mataura Licensing Trust would get to make recommendations as to where the money would go, he said.

People were already elected by residents to make those decisions, he said.

"We think we do a good job and we don't think it could be improved. We can't see any benefit for this area whatsoever," he said.

Submissions on the Gambling Amendment Bill to the commerce select committee close on June 21, with hearings expected about August.

nicole.mcdougall@stl.co.nz

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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