Poke at pokie trusts slammed

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 11:42 12/06/2012

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Lion Foundation boss Philip Holden has slammed a Green Party broadcast claiming pokie trusts are short-changing Waikato people, calling it a "classic piece of political misrepresentation".

Yesterday's press release claimed Te Ururoa Flavell's private member's bill, the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill, stands to pump an extra $20 million into the region's communities and sporting groups.

It is at the select committee stage.

And in its current form it would require councils to set up independent committees to distribute funds from the pokie industry.

Greens gambling spokeswoman Denise Roche said trusts running in Waikato returned just over 40 per cent of the $53m lost annually into the region's gambling machines back to the community.

"The rest is used by the pokie trusts for admin[istration] costs, including directors' fees, or goes back to the government in GST and levies," she said.

"The new bill will change this situation, requiring a higher rate of return of 80 per cent to the local community, or over $42 million annually in the Waikato's case."

The Lion Foundation, that dominates the pokie trust sector in the Waikato, returned less than 40 per cent of money lost in its pokie machines, Ms Roche said.

"[The] Lion Foundation alone would have to hand over about $8 million extra a year to Waikato groups if the Flavell bill goes through," Ms Roche said.

But Mr Holden said the bill as it stands is confusing.

"It's unclear what the reference to 80 per cent is," Mr Holden said.

"Is it of all revenue? Or 80 per cent of the money that's supposed to go back to the community as grants? What is it?"

A key component had been left out – that duty and compliance fees had to be paid to the Government by law, and it would probably want to retain that income stream, he said.

Giving the money to councils would also be "disastrous" for the local community, he said.

But Mr Holden did not dismiss the bill outright.

The intentions behind it were good, he said.

The definition of "community" should be changed from "New Zealand" to "community of origin", and the ratios should be set at 80/20, Mr Holden said.

Then, "you'll see more money go back to local communities".

The Lion Foundation will make a submission on the bill before the cut-off on June 21.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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