The Charities Commission must urgently retract an email it sent out to charitable organisations ramping up opposition to legislation designed to crack down on gambling, says Labour’s Internal Affairs Spokesperson Ruth Dyson.
“This is an extraordinary act from a Government agency which is supposed to be independent. It is completely inappropriate for the Chief Executive to circulate pro-gambling information to charitable groups, advocating that they oppose Te Ururoa Flavell’s Member’s Bill which seeks to reduce the harm of problem gambling.
“It’s even more unbelievable given the commission has previously failed to register agencies as charities because they’ve been involved in advocacy work!
“Problem gambling is a major concern in New Zealand. Many communities have been working to get more control over pokies in their own area. The Government has also recently been heavily criticised for offering Sky City a huge increase in the number of pokies they operate, in exchange for them building a convention centre in Auckland.
“Although the information provided in the email is not written by the Charities Commission, it has circulated it and given a very weak justification of the reason for doing so. They simply say that many charities are dependent on gambling funding, so there is a legitimate debate to be held.
“The debate certainly needs to be held, but the Charities Commission has gone against its own legislation of being independent and neutral on issues, as well as against its own advice in terms of advocacy.
The Chief Executive and the Minister responsible for the Commission need to step up to the plate and admit that this circulation of material is totally inappropriate. They must apologise to all those who received it. There are clear boundaries that have been breached in this instance, said Ruth Dyson.