A draft Gambling Policy for the Whakatāne District is recommending that the number of gaming machines, commonly known as ‘pokies’, remains capped at a target of 141. The Gambling Policy must be reviewed every three years and public consultation on the proposed policy is being undertaken in conjunction with the Whakatāne District Council’s 2019/20 Annual Plan process.

A report recommending a proposed policy was received by the Council’s Policy Committee last week. Committee Chairperson, Deputy Mayor Judy Turner, said the existing policy expires this year and under the Gambling Act 2003 and the Racing Act 2003, must be reviewed and replaced.

“The District currently has 179 pokies based in 12 venues, compared with 197 machines and 14 venues in March 2015,” she said. “The proposed policy therefore takes a ‘sinking lid’ approach, which would mean any new gambling machine or gaming venue applications would be declined until the target of a maximum of 141 pokies is reached.”

The report to the Committee indicated that the total spend on gambling machines in the District in 2017/18 was just over $10 million, while grants to community organisations by the four gaming trusts operating here totaled $2.47 million.

“The District is assessed as having a high gambling harm risk on the Ministry of Health’s assessment scale, due to the high levels of deprivation applying in some areas,” Deputy Mayor Turner explains. “However, the low density of gambling machines means the overall risk level is assessed as medium.

“As that has not changed since the current policy was adopted in 2016, and in the absence of any new census data confirming an increase in gambling harm, Committee members supported a ‘status quo’ approach for the next three years, which limits the total number of machines and gaming operations, and the number of pokies in a venue.”
The Draft Gambling Policy 2019, supporting documents and submission form are available on the Council website (www.whakatane.govt.nz/haveyoursay), and hard copies are available at Council offices and in public libraries throughout the District. The Council encourages all interested persons and organisations to make online submissions, but submission form hard copies can be requested by ringing 07 306 500. The submissions period will run until 5pm on 29 April 2019, and a public hearing will held in May 2019.