The local council should be given more powers to decide on the fate of controversial poker machines, a New Zealand gambling addict said.
Currently, there are 61 pokies in the hometown of the man, Ōtaki, north of Wellington – a number a lot higher than the number recommended by the council, which is 42. The man, called James, confesses that he has spent thousands of dollars while playing the machines that have been blamed a lot for their detrimental impact on gamblers’ lives. The fact that James has been self-employed has not helped him to deal with his addiction, because he has been free to work his own hours, so he found it easy just to go somewhere and just play.
The man has explained that poker machines’ ease of access could be a trigger for some gamblers to go and spend their money in clubs and pubs which host the machines. James also revealed that it has not been unusual for him to make a six-hour gambling session, and he has also stayed all day and into the night in such establishments.
What is worse, the staff of such clubs and pubs rarely checked in on him because it is not illegal to stop someone from “gambling his life savings away”.
Sinking Lid Policy on Poker Machines Is the Best They Can Do
Under a bylaw issued by the Kāpiti Coast District Council, only 42 pokies are allowed to be hosted by the town of Ōtaki. The decision was made in 2011.
At the time, the Council used a so-called sinking lid policy in terms of the controversial machines, which means that no new pokies can be set up in the town. There are also strict rules when it comes to relocation of pokier machines at times when the locations hosting such terminals shut down.
According to one of the counsellors at the local Problem Gambling Foundation, Andrew Brown, the sinking lid policy adopted by the Council in 2011 was the best decision that could have been made. Unfortunately, he also called the process “a waiting game”. Considering the fact that the machines were profitable for the businesses, hardly any of the establishments’ owners would voluntarily remove them.
The last few years have seen poker machines increase in popularity and become the reason for spreading gambling addiction among New Zealanders. The town of Ōtaki, which has been described as the most vulnerable area on the Kāpiti Coast, has also seen a lot of local people get hooked on the machines.
According to Mayor K Gurunathan, poker machines were not easy to manage, so the sinking lid policy and stricter rules on machines’ relocation was the best measure which could be adopted by the Council. On the other hand, he further noted that it would be great to see more money to be directly returned to the community it was taken from. Furthermore, he shared there were 192 poker machines in Kāpiti Coast, with the amount generated by the machines between October 2017 and September 2018 being NZ$8.75 million. The contribution to local community organisations was NZ$710,000, or 6.8% return.