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Outdoor Pokies Case Reaches High Court

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 13 NZPA - A Wellington pub's decision to set up smoker-friendly outdoor pokie machines reached the court today, with the Department for Internal Affairs asking for advice on how the move affects the pub's licence.

The department sought a declaratory judgment in Wellington High Court following a Gambling Commission decision to allow the Kilbirnie Tavern to operate gaming machines in a courtyard smoking area.

They asked the court to determine whether the pub, by allowing gambling where smoking takes place, was fulfilling licensing obligations of minimising the risk of problem gambling .

The outcome of the case would guide the department in its decision over whether pokies in the smoking area would have to be shut down or not.

Department lawyer Francis Cooke said the two addictive behaviours of smoking and gambling had been overtly conjoined and advertised.

"(The pub) is saying `come in and smoke and game'."

In a decision last year, the Gambling Commission ruled that licence conditions could not be imposed to make gambling less attractive generally in order to appeal less to problem gamblers.

The department imposed the licensing condition to minimise harm, and said because of the link between problem gambling and smoking, preventing smoking while using the machines would encourage problem gamblers to take regular breaks from gaming to allow for reflection on the habit.

Mr Cooke argued that although legislation did not specifically state that smoking and gambling could not take place in the same area, this was because no-one could have thought of a situation where gaming machines would be brought into an outdoor space.

"Nobody could have foreseen the ingenuity of the Kilbirnie Tavern in combining the two," he said.

"You have to admire the ingenuity of those people who sat around and have come up with this way of putting electronic machines outside -- putting a hole in the wall and turning the machines around."

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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