Waipa sticks with 'dangerous machines'

Decision 'disappointing' say gambling advocates

ANGELA CUMING
Last updated 16:00 25/10/2012
Pokie Machines
Fairfax NZ

NO CHANGE: The Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ is disappointed Waipa District Council will not change its stance on poker machines.

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Waipa District Council will not change its stance on poker machines to a ''sinking lid'' policy like Hamilton, despite submissions from the Waikato District Health Board and the Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ (PGFNZ).

The district puts more than $8 million a year into pokies but the council has decided not to  review its policy this year.

It will instead stick with the status quo of a maximum number of 232 gaming machines. A sinking lid policy would mean every time a pokie machine is removed or a venue hosting pokie machines closes the machines would not be replaced.

The PGFNZ said the council's decision not to adopt the policy was ''disappointing''.

''We advocate for a sinking lid policy as it reduces the number of pokie machines in a community over time,'' PGFNZ spokeswoman Andrée Froude said.

''Waipa currently has 200 pokie machines so sticking with the policy capping the number of machines at 232 means Waipa could potentially end up with more machines sucking more money out of the community.''

In 2011, over $8 million was lost on pokie machines in Waipa District ($8,437,605.96).

Pokies are ''dangerous machines'', she said.

"More than 70 per cent of people who seek help with a gambling problem do so because of pokies and more than 40 per cent of the money lost on pokie machines comes from people with a gambling problem, she said.

''And many councils around the country are adopting sinking lid policies to keep the numbers of machines down.''

The Waikato DHB said it wanted the sinking lid policy to ''control the growth of gambling and prevent and minimise the harm caused by gambling''.

The Waipa District Council had been required to review its gambling and board venue policies under the Gambling Act 2003.

Part of the review process included an assessment of the social impacts of gambling on their communities and comments from key stakeholders.

The Social Impact of Gambling Assessment for the Waipa District found  the number of machines had dropped 20 per cent since 2006, but that in Waipa almost all of the machines are located in ''areas of highest deprivation''.

Spokeswoman for Waipa District Council, Lisa Nairne: ''In light of the feedback received from key stakeholder organisations and taking into account the findings of the Social Impact Assessment 2012, the review determined that the current policies appear to be working adequately.

''On this basis, and in accordance with the Gambling Act 2003, council has decided not to amend or replace the existing policies at this time.''

Organisations that made submissions to the council against a sinking lid policy included the Lion Foundation and the Perry Foundation.


THE NUMBERS: (Source, The Social Impact of Gambling Assessment for the Waipa District)

Total number of poker machines in Waipa DC area (as at Sept 2012): 200
Maximum allowed: 232
Number of machines per 222 people: 1
Money lost to gambling between July 2011 and June 2012: $8.2 million
Contribution to local community funding by Pokie Trusts in 2011: $2.09 million
Total grants given to the council by the Pokie Trust in 2011: $334,000
Total grants given to health-related services by the Pokie Trust in 2011: $2318   

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