Council hears gambling policy suggestions

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A solicitor acting for The New Zealand Racing Board yesterday urged representatives of the Waitaki District Council to include a provision in the final gambling and TAB venue policy that allows existing providers of gaming machines and TABs to relocate without their licensing conditions being affected.

Jarrod True presented the board’s submission on the draft policy saying that allowing relocation enabled venues to move out of earthquake-prone buildings, it created fairness in cases of fire, lease termination, public works acquisition and site redevelopment and meant venues could move into new, modern premises. It would also prevent landlords demanding unreasonable rentals.

Mr True highlighted the need for council to separate gaming machine policy and the TAB board venue policy saying that race and sports betting was ‘very different’ to gaming machine gambling and ‘should be treated differently.’

Both venue and machine numbers had declined in Waitaki from 2003, he said, when the district had 25 venues and 141 machines to this year, when there are now 13 venues and 123 machines.

Terry Williamson, of the Lion Foundation, also submitted that council include a relocation provision and agreed with the number of venues in the district being capped at one venue per 1000 residents. Based on 2013 census figures, the submission stated, this equates to a cap of 20 venues. The foundation also agreed with a proposed cap of 140 machines.

The Lion Foundation operates 32 gaming machines in two Class 4 venues in the Waitaki District including Northstar Motels Restaurant and Bar and Sports Central.

“In the last financial year, the Lion Foundation has given a total of $212,196 in grants to 29 local groups operating in the Waitaki District (including local groups affiliated to a national or regional organisation.) This is a significant and important contribution to local community groups many of which would not survive without funding generated through gaming.”

Joanne Lee, a health promotion advisor at Public Health South, said the DHB acknowledged that funding for community groups can be difficult to obtain, however it was the people who were most vulnerable in our communities that did not necessarily benefit from the grants provided by this type of revenue.

She asked council to consider the difference between the number of people with gambling problems and the number of people who sought help in the Waitaki district.

“Gambling is a hidden problem and for those who are caught up in that cycle shame plays a big part. Just imagine an iceberg – two thirds of it is hidden beneath the surface.”

Six submissions were received on the draft policy which would now be considered and the final policy adopted on December 3.