Auckland Council is supporting a proposal to give local councils regulatory powers allowing them to reduce the numbers of Class 4 gambling venues in their communities.
The feedback is included in the council's submission to the Commerce Select Committee on the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill.
In the submission, which was endorsed by the Governing Body today, the council said it would like a more extensive 'toolkit' of powers that could be applied differently in different parts of the region and to different types of venues.
This would include powers to allow councils to:
reduce the availability of Class 4 gambling by reducing the number of machines, or by restricting the hours machines can be operated
declare a venue or type of venue as unsuitable as a Class 4 venue
place conditions on the layout and design of venues.
"Our biggest concern is the harm that gambling is doing to some in our communities, so we would support any measures that aim to reduce that harm," said Councillor George Wood, chair of the working party that developed the submission.
"This would give us more powers to influence and take action where we feel the presence of one of these venues is likely to cause severe harm to a particular community, or the location is unsuitable."
The Bill also proposes to require councils to set up and administer distribution committees that would allocate the net proceeds from these venues, based on the principles of fairness and transparency, and that 80 per cent of those proceeds be returned to the venue's local community.
"While we support the intention, we don't believe council should be involved in the business of making the decisions on funding allocations. We have proposed an alternative mechanism to achieve the desire for more transparency and fairness," says Cr Wood.
The council suggests:
leaving trusts responsible for administration and distributing proceeds from Class 4 gambling machines, and that they continue to pay out of gross proceeds
require the trusts to provide evidence of how they would reduce problem gambling, minimise operating costs and maximise returns to the community, in order to obtain a consent from council to operate
require trusts to distribute proceeds within the council's area in accordance with rules set out in that council's gambling venue policy. This criteria would also control where the funds go, for what purpose and membership of distribution committees.
This submission is just one part of a wider parcel of work the council is undertaking, including developing draft Class 4 Gambling Venue and Racing Board Venue (TAB) policies, which will be consulted on later this year.
Currently the policies of the former Auckland councils are still in place. The existing policies for Class 4 Gambling are:
Rodney District and North Shore City: Cap on machines and venues
Waitakere and Manukau: Sinking lid
Auckland City: Sinking lid with relocations
Papakura: Cap on number of machines.
As of May 2012 there were 313 Class 4 Gambling venues and 4,183 machines operating in Auckland region.
Only 72 (23 per cent) of the 313 venues require a council consent. The rest are operating under licences granted when the Gambling Act 2003 was introduced, meaning they did not need to apply for a council consent.
Those non-consented venues account for 3,571 (or 85 per cent) of the machines operating in Auckland.
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