Pokies cash for racing raises ire

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013
Sandra Johnson
AMANDA PARKINSON/Fairfax NZ
Bluff Swimming Club president Sandra Johnson is frustrated that her application for funding was dismissed by the New Zealand Community Trust in favour of horse racing.

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Most New Zealand Community Trust grants in Southland were awarded to horse racing clubs, angering some of the community groups that were declined funding.

The funding comes from the pokie machines at the Golden Age Tavern in Bluff and the Woodlands Tavern near Invercargill.

The trust awarded a total of $263,500 in grants to organisations in the region for the financial year ended September 30.

Of the total, $217,000 was divided between seven harness, trotting and racing clubs in Invercargill, Gore, Riverton, Roxburgh and Wyndham.

The remaining $46,500 was split between nine community groups.

Some of the organisations turned down for funding are based in Bluff, where some of the proceeds from gambling came from.

Bluff Swimming Club president Sandra Johnson said her amateur club was declined a grant for $3000.

"It's disgusting the [pokie] grants are going towards getting adults to gamble again and not to children."

She applied for the grant to help with rental costs, which in turn would keep down the $85 annual cost for children attending.

She received a letter from the trust saying there was not enough money to give out to the community, she said.

She was angry the club had not got any funding two years in a row.

"If they had given us even a portion of the $3000, it would have helped."

Bluff Memorial RSA president Lindsay Key said the club was declined $10,000 for a new heating system.

The club did not make a lot of money and struggled to make ends meet, which was why it had applied.

"We try to cater for the old guys left and they have been around a lot longer than some of these clubs," he said.

Bluff Coastguard president Andy Johnson said he had applied for $50,000 to go towards a new rescue vessel.

He was not sure why he was turned down but said "politics" played a part in the decision.

"We are disappointed by the decline but we have got to take it on the chin I suppose . . . they obviously decided racing clubs put forward a good case," he said.

Southland Harness chief executive Russell Freeman and community trust chief executive Mike Knell were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Southland Racing Club president Sean Bellew, whose club has not applied for pokie money for the past six years, said he understood how people would view giving grants from pokies to racing as "giving pork to pigs".

The community trust grants website says sport is the primary focus for its funding but it also provides funds for charitable purposes such as rescue and lifesaving services, education, health, the arts, cultural and community groups. The funds come from trust operators who run its gaming machines in their hotels, bars and clubs.

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Other pokie money distributed throughout the region, including Invercargill, comes from different trusts such as the Invercargill Licensing Trust, The Lion Foundation and the Trusts Community Foundation.

- The Southland Times

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