Committee adopts unchanged Gambling Policy

The Whakatāne District Council’s Policy Committee has adopted an unchanged District Gambling Policy, which will remain in force for the next three years.

Local authorities have limited powers in regulating gambling activities, but can limit the issuing of licenses for additional gambling machines.

The new policy does not allow the introduction of any additional gaming machines until the total number of ‘pokies’ in the District falls below 141 (from the existing 179 machines).

Over time, that would bring the number of gambling machines per thousand people closer to the national average.

The current restrictions on gaming venue locations and the number of machines allowed in a venue have also been retained.

Following formal community consultation on a draft gambling policy and social impact assessment, the Committee last week received 12 submissions, some of which supported some liberalisation of the current policy, while others advocated for the retention or tightening of the current rules.

The social impact assessment undertaken as part of the triennial policy review process concluded that the level of gambling risk in the Whakatāne District has not altered substantially since the current policy was adopted in 2016, and therefore, that no significant changes to the policy were justified.

Committee Chairperson, Deputy Mayor Judy Turner, says while some committee members supported an increase in the cap on machine numbers to the existing 179 pokies, to ensure that future gaming trust contributions to local organisations were not adversely affected, a proposed amendment to the policy was defeated by a 7:3 majority.

“Most committee members felt that while the risk profile might not have changed since the last review of the policy, gambling harm is still a significant factor for some individuals and families.

“It was noted that the lack of information collected on problem gambling and its relationship with other addictive behaviours made determining the actual risk level difficult. Under the circumstances, retaining the status quo was considered to be a better option at this time.”

Committee members also expressed concern about the impacts of online gambling, which is totally unregulated and does not generate any benefits for local communities through gaming trust funding support.

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