South Waikato District Council defends decision as 'positive'

South Waikato District Council defends its stance regarding its decision to support the merger of three clubs by approving one new site, citing that it is a positive move towards limiting pokie gambling as it reduces the number of venues from three to one and machines from 36 to 30.

The Council states that the recent negative media publicity over this decision, made two years ago, is uninformed and incomplete.

"The Council of the time approved the site because it reduced the number of venues and machines across the district," said Mayor Jenny Shattock.

The club members supported the merger and clubs like this are important places for people to socialise. The decision also resulted in people working at these venues not losing their jobs.

"If problem gamblers are asked to leave one venue, they may head to another. Reducing the number of venues means that the very people we are concerned about - at risk problem gamblers - have less access to these machines."

When you put all this together - reduction in numbers of venues and machines, jobs, social factors and reducing problem gambling - Council is confident this was the right decision.

"Council is working very hard to reduce the number of pokie venues. In 2003 we had 18 venues. This reduced to 13 in 2009, 12 in 2012 and this current decision will reduce venues to 10," continued Mayor Shattock. "Our policy is restrictive and the statistics prove a genuine and real drive towards reduction."

The new facility will not be 'dark and dingy'. It is undergoing extensive fit-out that will create a brand new, well-lit, well managed and well run facility.

Council acknowledges the effects of gambling in our district and on our community; indeed in other communities around New Zealand, but we also acknowledge that it is a legal activity and there are many people in our community who have benefited from funding provided by the machines.

One of our current Councillors is involved in this facility. She was not a Councillor at the time of the decision.

Council believes the bigger question here is for central government to improve legislation around reducing the harm caused by gambling. Councils operate under legislation. Gambling is legal. If the New Zealand public is not happy with what this legislation allows, we need to review the legislation, not criticise local government.

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Page reviewed: 18 Dec 2017 9:13am