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Editorial: Gambling bill on track

Last updated 13:29 06/06/2012

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Okay, so maybe Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell could have tidied up some of the wording in his Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill.

Like the name of it for a start.

And his proposal that the amount distributed from the machines be lifted to 80 per cent; which is a tad difficult when the Government takes 37 per cent now and is not likely to reduce that.

But the aims of his bill are sound.

Distribution of the pokie money will shift from trusts to local government, bringing all the machines in an area under one umbrella.

In South Canterbury there are five main trusts with one being locally-based, and while most of the money gambled here is still spent here, having it in one pool for disbursement will present new opportunities.

Instead of sending a dozen sporting teams off to national tournaments, for instance, you might choose instead to resurface a tennis court. Or you might not. The point is, you could think bigger. You could think differently.

A central point must also make it easier for applicants – with one (hopefully simple) process – and less chance of accusations of financial cronyism.

Pub Charity boss Martin Cheer says the clear aim of the bill is to get rid of all pokie machines, but would that really happen? They are still a legitimate recreation. Timaru District Council has a bylaw aimed at reducing the number of machines – any new outlet can have only seven – but hasn't said that number be none.

And naturally enough, the corporate trusts in play now are going to be critical of this bill. They will no longer exist.

But care will be needed. Collecting and distributing pokie money is no small task. Any council committee will have to be adequately resourced, and transparent. Pokie proceeds shouldn't be used to offset rates.

Another of the bill's aims is to delete racing stakes from the list of charitable purposes that may receive funds. What? How many people think racing stakes are a charitable purpose now?

Only one of the bill's aims is targeted at the gamblers themselves, and that proposes a player tracking system or pre-commit cards. Both measures seek to limit an individual's losses, but it is hard to see how this would work. If someone is determined to gamble, they will.

Overall though, good luck to Mr Flavell. If he gets 80 per cent of his bill through, he'll be doing well.

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- The Timaru Herald

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