The city of Nelson is moving closer to the implementation of stricter rules in terms of poker machines. The gambling policy of the city is reviewed every three years, with local councillors’ opinions being divided over the best way to make an amendment to the current rules.
However, the two-hour-long debates yesterday took councillors to a dead end. As a result of the discussions, which were primarily focused on the balance between gambling-related harm inflicted on society, and the benefits brought to local communities by gambling companies, the planning and the regulatory committee of Nelson’s council agreed on leaving the matter to the full council for a final decision.
The measures aimed at tacking possible negative effects brought on society by electronic gaming terminals (EGTs), also known as poker machines or pokies. The measures included putting a certain limit on the number of pokies in the CBD to 162, which is the current number of machines. In comparison, the current policy allows up to 273 pokies to be established in the city. In addition, the committee also made a proposal to remove poker machines from the most disadvantaged areas in the region, and also to slash the number of pokies permitted at new venues from nine to five.
Reportedly, the proposed amendments to the existing policy received about 50 submissions from the public, most of which supported the more restrictive approach to local poker machines, including the so-called “sinking lid” policy.
Sinking Lid Policy Amendment Could Still Be Debated
The “sinking lid” policy is not a new proposal for the city of Nelson. Such an amendment was debated a few months ago, in September, but eventually, it was not proposed for public consultation. In case that the sinking lid policy was implemented at the time, it would have meant that existing venues could close or eliminate EGTs, but new venues would not be allowed to open as substitutes or replace the poker machines.
The ones backing the existing regime, who are willing to keep the less restrictive rules in terms of gambling venues and pokies, were mostly individuals or businesses and organisations which draw benefit from gambling revenue.
Reportedly, about 18% of overall gambling revenue in the city of Nelson, NZ$1.8 million, were redirected to society via charities over a period of five years. The total proceeds derived from gambling in the same period of time exceeded NZ$9 million.
Some experts, such as Councillor Kate Fulton, backed the sinking lid policy. Councillor Fulton explained that she supported the more restrictive regime, due to concerns related to the amount of gambling-related harm suffered by the local community. She reminded that 20% of the New Zealand population has felt the negative impact of poker machines at some point.