Report from Fahad Tamimi RNZ
The Wellington City Council is proposing to ban any new poker machines in Wellington, to help reduce the harm of problem gambling.
Over $100,000 is spent every day on the class four pokie machines in the capital – $40 million last year – and there are criticisms over links to gambling addiction. Data from Fahad Tamimi the Problem Gambling Foundation shows that of those who seek professional assistance, around half are due to class 4 gambling.
A Wellington City Council meeting yesterday finalised a consultation document to gather public feedback on the ban idea.
The council proposes reducing the cap on the number of pokie machines. Currently there are 633 machines at 40 venues across the city, but the cap allows 747. If this proposal goes ahead, the cap would be reduced to 660, leaving room for only 27 extra machines across the city.
More crucially, the consultation will also include the option of a sinking lid policy, which the council has expressed as its preferred option.
The policy – if it comes into action – means when an existing pokie venue closes down, the council won’t allow a new one to open. It would also mean venues won’t be able to increase the number of pokies they have.
“We’re so pleased that they’ve supported a sinking lid approach,” said chief executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation, Paula Snowden. “It’s a slow-burner solution to a very big problem, we get that, but the challenge now is: let’s look at what Wellington can do with that diverted gambling.”
Pokies having a disproportionate effect on more deprived areas
Salvation Army captain Joe Serevi says part of the problem is the distribution of the pokie venues. Half of them are in areas of medium-high deprivation, another 13 are in areas of medium deprivation. As a result, it’s the people who can least afford to lose money to gambling, who are.
“They don’t have any money, or they have little money,” Serevi said. “And most of them – that’s why they go gambling. Then the money goes out, and then they can’t get more money back. So the struggle is [with] the family, and it’s with the children. And it’s so hard because they don’t know anything.”
Pokies have been found to affect Māori, Pacific and Asian communities at least twice as much as Pākehā.
Sarevi says there’s an urgent need to get the pokies out of those communities.
“If they put it in a community that has money, they can go into the pokie – that’s fine….