Plan to fight proposed law change

Last updated 05:00 13/06/2012

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The Timaru District Council does not want a bar of operating pokie machines and will front up to Parliament to say so.

If it became law, the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill would result in local government taking over the role of the charitable trusts who operate the machines at present.

Councils would also be responsible for distributing the profits from machines. "We would almost be running a casino through the whole district," Mayor Janie Annear said, objecting strongly to the proposed changes.

Councillors considered it untenable that if the bill became law, councils would be administering the gaming machines and distributing the proceeds from them.

She said the bill was superficial, adding it was simply not the council's core business to be involved with gaming machines, and they would not best be serving the community by doing so.

Resource planning and regulation committee chairman Pat Mulvey was concerned the bill called for councils to reduce the number of sites with gaming machines within a year, and felt it could be impossible to distribute some of the funds as the areas in which they had to be distributed were so small, being only the size of community board areas.

He worried that if there was no suitable applicant wanting funds from the area where the money was collected, it would go to the government rather than to an applicant from the wider district.

Cr Jane Coughlan opposed the level of monitoring the bill called for. Councils would be responsible, through player tracking devices, for recording the funds and hours that individuals spent on pokie machines.

"What right has Big Brother to monitor who is playing the machines and what they have spent? There must be some moderation, but this is a legal activity.

"If someone wants to spend all night at SkyCity, it is no one else's business unless they go for help."

The only positive aspect Cr Michael Oliver could see in the proposed legislation was the need for the council to consult with its community to set gaming policies, even though the district council, has already done that.

Mrs Annear said she felt the matter was so important that she and Cr Mulvey should go to Wellington to present the council's submission to Parliament. Councillors agreed with that move.

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- The Timaru Herald

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