Councils are really not pleased with the fact that they are unable to get rid of the pokie machines, and are of the opinion that they do not have the authority to do what is necessary for their community under the existing law. The best that the local governments can do under the Gambling Act is enforce a sinking lid policy, which implies that no new machines may be added, and if a venue closes, the machines shut with it.
Wellington City Councillors might be voting on introducing a sinking lid, even though studies claim that these measures do very little to decrease gambling damage and on the contrary make current venues more profitable.
The Christchurch City Council and the Policies
The Christchurch City Council retains one of New Zealand’s most stringent pokie machine rules, which will further be extended for another three years. Nevertheless, not everybody is happy or content with the decision, resulting in the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand making a request that the Christchurch City Council modify its stance.
The council has opted not to modify the policies related to its gambling activities and TAB venues that govern the number and locations of non-casino gaming venues. The policy has been in effect ever since 2004, however, it is subject to review every three years.
The Gaming Machine Association’s Jarrod True had made a request that the council engage the public before choosing not to change the regulation. He wants the council to change its current “sinking lid” policy with a cap and enable pokie machine licences to be moved to different locations. Since 2004, the sinking lid policy has prevented any new licences permitting gambling in pubs and clubs from being issued. In addition to that, existing licences cannot be transferred to a new location.
There are now 82 pub and club gaming establishments in Christchurch, with 1291 pokie machines in service, down from 2158 in 2004. Throughout that time, the list of minimum deposit casino operators for NZ players has expanded significantly. Despite the drop in land-based machines and locations, a council staff study highlighted that Christchurch still has more machines per capita in comparison to the national average. There are 3.3 machines per 1000 people in Christchurch. Auckland has 1.9 machines per 1000 people, whereas Wellington and Dunedin have the national average of 2.9.
Adding on, Christchurch was significantly over-represented in figures of persons seeking treatment for compulsive gambling, according to the report. Although Christchurch only made up 8% of New Zealand’s population, it accounted for 10% of the overall number of persons seeking gambling treatment and therapy in 2020.
Internet Gambling And Associated Amendments
True was of the opinion that internet gambling was becoming more extensive and popular and that in the process of restricting pokie machines, the council was putting a ban on recreational gamblers as well. He further made it known that people who were hooked to gaming would always find a machine to play and the regulation would in no way prevent them from doing so.
In 2019, over $77 million was spent on pokie machines in Christchurch, with $18.7 million going to Greater Christchurch organizations, as per the Gaming Machine Association. Christchurch, as per the blog post of policy expert Ellen Cavanagh, has one of the most stringent restrictions allowed by law. Studies have also indicated that the sinking lid rules have been the most successful in decreasing gambling damage, according to Kristy Kang of the Problem Gambling Foundation.
She said that the community funds that were supplied by the machines could neither justify nor repair the harm done to communities. Paul Barrett also encouraged the council not to compromise its stance on host duty and called for even tougher restrictions. Morgan Barrett, his father, spent $480,000 playing pokies at various venues in and around Christchurch.
Morgan Barrett died of a heart attack, and the family didn’t realize it until the EQC compensation for their earthquake-damaged home was gone. Only $46 was left to his widow. At one venue, he spent $86,000. Paul Barrett couldn’t understand why there were strict rules about host duty when it came to drinking, but not when it came to gambling. The council also resolved to push the government to improve host responsibility enforcement.