Porirua City Council agreed to a comprehensive sinking lid policy for Class 4 gaming today, as a way to help reduce the harm caused by gambling in the city.
Porirua has 156 pokie machines in operation, across 10 licensed venues. A comprehensive sinking lid policy means if a venue closed, its machines couldn’t be relocated, or merged with, another site.
Following recent consultation with the community, the Council’s review of the Class 4 Gaming Machines and TAB Venues Policy was concluded with the deliberations report presented to Council’s Te Puna Kōrero committee on Thursday.
Pokie machines earned a $15.809 million profit in the year to June 2023 in Porirua, a $2m increase from the previous financial year. Research has shown there is gambling harm prevalent in Porirua, with among the highest spends per machine in the country.
Part of the research undertaken as part of the Class 4 review showed the amount of funding from pokie machines returned to the community was disproportionate to the amount put into them – with spending on gambling likely coming from our most vulnerable communities, especially among Māori and Pacific people.
Eighty-nine submissions from across Porirua, including from organisations such as Ngāti Toa, Te Whatu Ora and Problem Gambling Foundation, as well as from a number of individuals, were received during the community consultation. Engagement included hui with interested communities and groups, drop-in clinics for the public to ask questions, and messaging on social media and in Kapi-Mana News.
The majority of submitters (83 per cent) favoured a comprehensive sinking lid policy.
However, a question posed during consultation – should Council use gaming machine grants to fund Council-run community events – divided opinion, especially when it was made clear that funding those events would need to instead come from rates if Council stopped applying for these grants.
It was recommended to councillors and Mayor Anita Baker that while a comprehensive sinking lid policy should be enforced, an “ethical commitment” to not apply for pokie machine grants not be made at this time.
Introducing the report, Council officers recommended the ethical commitment not be made now due to our communities not being in full support of this, as well as the financial impacts of a potential rates increase, which would further impact the community.
Mayor Baker agreed.
“The money we get from pokie machines funds our community bus, Te Pahi, which brings young people to Pātaka and the pools, and funds Love Local, Matariki and Waitangi Day and all kinds of other events – without these, we’re not a city,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Kylie Wihapi said while taking pokie machine money was “not a great feeling”, the funding will just end up somewhere else.
“I would prefer to have that funding for our people here in Porirua,” she said.
While the ethical commitment will not be introduced at this time, it was agreed that Council would support advocacy and awareness of gambling harm in the city.