Whakatāne District Unveils New Draft Policy Limiting Gambling

The Whakatāne District in New Zealand has unveiled a new draft gambling policy that aims to control the growth of gambling in the district. The drive behind this move to limit gambling growth is to prevent the gambling harm. The new policy recommends that the number of pokies or poker machines be limited to 141 in the entire Whakatāne District.

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Whakatāne District Gambling Policy Up for Three-Year Review

With the latest policy unveiled in 2016, the Gambling Policy is due for its three-year review. It comes right on time with the opening up for public consultation of the 2019/20 Annual Plan process of the Whakatāne District Council. The Council’s Policy Committee received a recommended proposed policy last week. Committee chairperson Deputy Mayor Judy Turner, said the current policy will be expiring later this year. This is the reason why the policy is up for review and replacement under the provisions of the Gambling Act 2003 and the Racing Act 2003.

The Whakatāne District’s public submissions process is accepting proposals from March 25 to April 29. Then, public hearings on the matters will be held on May 29. By opening up gambling-related issues to public consultation, it makes the community a part of developing a solution to a problem that deeply affects them.

Sinking Lid Approach Aims to Do More Than Reduce Number of Machines

The Gambling Policy has other objectives when it comes to managing gambling in the Whakatāne District. These include preventing and minimising gambling harm, reducing the exposure of gambling to children, and also reduce the number of pokies in the district.

Currently, there are 179 poker machines across 12 venues in the Whakatāne District. This is a decrease compared to the 197 machines in 14 venues four years ago. They’ve been using the so-called ‘sinking lid approach’. Basically, the district won’t be accepting any new applications until the numbers are down to 141 poker machines.

The Whakatāne District is in desperate need of an intervention. According to the Committee, the community spent upward of $10 million on pokies in 2017/18. While the four gaming trust in the district only contributed $2.47 million to the local community. Deputy Mayor Turner said the Whakatāne District has high gambling-related harm risk. According to a study by the Ministry of Health, this district is a high risk because of the extreme levels of deprivation.

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