The Gaming Act 2003 requires Kaipara District Council to have a policy - reviewed every three years - for gaming machines and venues where they operate.
In 2004, after receiving 93 submissions for and against restricting numbers, the Council introduced a sinking lid policy, meaning no new venues could be set up or extra pokies installed and that any withdrawn from service were unable to be replaced or transferred elsewhere. Kaipara was one of only about six councils nationally that adopted this strategy.
As a result numbers have fallen from 120 machines at 18 venues in 2003 to 81 at 13 venues last year. In 2003 there was one pokie to 155 Kaipara residents while the 2007 ratio was one to 230.
In preparing for its three yearly review the Council will be seeking public opinion next month in association with the annual plan process.
Options for the policy include:
Continuing the present sinking lid policy
Allowing numbers to rise without restriction to the maximum legally permitted.
Putting a cap on the number of venues and machines
Not permitting any new venues and capping pokie numbers but allowing redundant machines to be re-distributed to other sites.
Mayor Neil Tiller says the Council has no preconceived ideas and wants to hear from the public. “People have to weigh up the problems caused by gambling compared to the benefits of money being distributed to the community.”
Department of Internal Affairs figures show that Kaipara residents gambled an average of $144.38 last year compared to the national average of $236.08 and well below Whangarei’s $225.00 or the Far North District’s $323.00.
The anti gambling lobby group, Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand, listed Kaipara 67th among 73 districts nationally on the amount gambled per head of population annually and the Ministry of Health says only three Kaipara people contacted Gambling Healthline Limited in 2006.
Mayor Tiller points out that continuing to reduce pokie numbers through a sinking lid policy will ultimately cut the profits available to clubs and organisations through the likes of Scottwood Trust and Castle Trust.
On the basis of $2.67 million being spent on gambling in Kaipara last year about $863,000 should have been available for distribution but the Mayor says it appears Kaipara may not be getting its full entitlement from these funds at this stage.
The submission process will begin on 12 March and close on Wednesday 16 April 2008. Forms will be available from Council offices and online at www.kaipara.govt.nz