A council's proposal to have the numbers of gambling machines in South Taranaki reduced from 154 to 140 has met with mixed reactions.
The South Taranaki District Council held a gambling policy meeting yesterday as it reviews its class 4 gambling and TAB venues, which is done every three years.
Taranaki District Health Board and Problem Gambling Foundation New Zealand wants the council to adopt a sinking lid stance.
But the New Zealand Community Trust, New Zealand Racing Board, Lion Foundation, Pub Charity, and the South Taranaki Club said revenues received through the pokie machines were pumped back to the community through grants and the reduction of pokie machines could have a detrimental effect on community.
However, Salvation Army member Graeme Bateman, of Hawera, said in a written submission Sallies had met problem gamblers and saw the "ruination of people's lives" caused by the activity.
"We know that these machines are designed to work at a profit. The gambler seeking a jackpot win is likely to be a loser," Mr Bateman said.
TDHB medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman said pokie machines are considered to be the worst form of gambling. He said close to $5 million was lost on gaming machines in the South Taranaki district in 2012.
"That is an average of $264.13 for every single person in the district aged 18 and over," he said.
Dr Jarman said poorer communities had the highest concentration of venues with gaming machines and also suffered the highest risk from the harm.
"A woman shared a story of her friend with gambling problems. Her friend gambled the money away and there was no food for the kids, and the family was planning for a holiday but mum blew their savings on gambling," Dr Jarman said. "This story is reflected in various parts of New Zealand."
NZCT communications manager Angela Paul said a lot of attention had been focused on the negative but not on the positive side.
Ms Paul said the community benefits from pokie grants and up to July 31, 2013, the organisation distributed $617,296 to 68 sporting and community groups in Taranaki.
To date, Hawera BMX received $44,661, A&P Showgrounds $150,000 and STDC $641,650.
NZCT also contributed $400,000 to The Hub, $100,000 to Patea pools and $20,000 to Waverley playing courts' resurfacing.
The trust recommends the council to keep its existing policy with a cap of 154 machines.
NZRB asked the council to replace the prohibition on new TAB venues with a cap of one and amend the primary activity requirement to enable TAB venues to host gaming machines.
"The policy currently requires all class 4 venues to be in an environment where alcohol is present," NZRB's solicitor Jarrod True of Harkness Henry Lawyers said.
"Stand alone TAB venues are alcohol free and are the most controlled and supervised environment in which gaming machine gambling can take place."
STDC will make a decision of its gambling policy on October 9.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should ratepayers fork out for increased security to keep vandals at bay in Pukekura Park?Related story: Cameras set to catch vandals