New restrictions on the number of gaming machines are now being discussed in the Gisborne District in northeastern New Zealand. Aiming at minimizing the negative impacts of problem gambling, the draft policy on gambling proposed by the District Council prohibits the relocation of gambling venues and limits the number of racing board venues to only one.
Local authorities in the Gisborne District are currently reviewing the Gambling Venue policy as required by the Gambling Act 2003 and Racing Act 2003. A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for Wednesday, 8 May, when community members and all parties involved will be able to comment on the updated policy that seeks to reduce the rates of compulsive gambling in the region. The District Council is also accepting written submissions online by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 April.
Currently, there are 12 Class 4 Gambling venues across the entire Gisborne District and they are home to exactly 180 gambling machines. According to the latest Class 4 Gambling Report published by the Department of Internal Affairs in 2017, there were 4.1 EGMs (electronic gaming machines) per 1,000 people in Gisborne, which is an average prevalence compared to the other districts in the country. Auckland was at the lowest end with only 2.4 machines per 1,000 people, while the West Coast had a record 7.1 pokies per 1,000 residents.
The new proposal of the Gisborne District Council does not reduce the number of gambling machines, however. Rather, it maintains the so-called sinking lid policy, which is currently being applied to Class 4 machines, and it expands it to include the number of racing board venues allowed. If approved, the revised policy will ban new TABs from opening on the territory of the district. Currently, there is just one TAB in Gisborne and if the changes come into effect, this venue would not be allowed to relocate.
Along with the proposed ban on the relocation of Class 4 Gambling venues, this new policy would effectively place tough restrictions on gambling operators. If they do relocate, they would lose their operating license.
No Problem Gambling Support in the Gisborne Community
The existing Gambling Venue policy was approved by the District Council in 2015 but it must be assessed and revised if necessary every three years. The Council has now published its short review of the document and there are several key conclusions that can be made. First of all, the number of gambling venues and pokies is down from several years ago. At the same time, the revenue from gaming machines is on the rise, according to the Council.
This steady, alarming trend suggests that people are spending more on gambling than they used to only a few years ago. In a ranking of all 67 districts in the country, Gisborne reports the 19th highest rate of gambling loss per head in New Zealand – people here lose $88.03 on average on pokies. According to the policy review, this sum is a comparison between the proceeds from gambling machines and the number of people within the region who are of legal age for gambling. The total proceeds from pokies are expected to reach $11 million in 2018.
The District Council also reveals that there is still no dedicated support service for people struggling with a gambling addiction or any other kind of problem gambling behaviour. Moreover, it is difficult to gather sufficient data on the rates and severity of problem gambling in the region and analyze it. The lack of support and prevention service is extremely alarming, especially when we consider that most problem gamblers develop all kinds of detrimental behaviours, as shown multiple times by domestic and international research.