After a long overdue review of Class 4 gambling aimed at making pokies safer, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Jan Tinetti announced a raft of proposed changes to regulations last Friday at PGF’s Auckland office.
Although we knew the changes were never going to be a silver bullet, it is a step in the right direction and we appreciate the Minister’s passion and commitment to reducing the harm from gambling. Below we answer some questions about the proposed changes:
What changes did the Minister announce on Friday?
1.Venues will be required to identify harmful gambling and keep records. For example, they will have to conduct three ‘sweeps’ of the pokie area every hour, talk to patrons who have been gambling for around three hours, and keep a logbook.
2.Staff who will be working with gamblers will be required to do mandatory annual training. There will be a consistent approach to this and specified training components.
3.Venue design will change slightly. ATMs will have be in the line of sight of the main bar area and pokies can’t be visible from outside the venue.
4.Stronger enforcement so that venues can be easily penalised for low-level non-compliance. It is proposed that infringement fees of $1,000 will be charged for a full range of offences.
What does PGF think of these proposed changes?
As mentioned above, we didn’t expect the changes to be groundbreaking but it does raise the bar for pokie venues in terms of host responsibility. We are disappointed that the proposed changes didn’t include any modifications to the actual machines to make them less harmful. We are also concerned that all the changes announced will be very reliant on effective monitoring and inspections of venues by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). This will require significant resourcing and if this doesn’t happen we will still see people fall through the cracks.
The infringement fees are too low – we hope that frequent offences lead to a venue losing its licence as they need to be held accountable for non-compliance.
Mandatory training will bring some consistency across the sector so that every staff member that is working with gamblers will be required to do the same training.
Overall, the changes don’t go far enough but at least what is being proposed can happen relatively quickly. More change is needed and we are looking forward to seeing a review of the Gambling Act which is no longer fit for purpose.
What really needs to happen to minimise the harm from gambling on pokies in pubs, clubs and TABs?
While we continue to fund our communities and sports groups from the proceeds of pokies, we will continue to see harm. Over 60% of pokie venues are located in medium high or high deprivation communities, so the money is coming from people who can least afford to lose it. It is unethical and inequitable so alternative sources of funding need to be found. Many of the groups that rely on the funding from pokie trusts face an ethical dilemma and are worthy and important causes that should have access to alternative more sustainable funding.
We need to keep reducing the numbers of pokie machines, particularly in our poorer communities where the harm is being felt. Councils need to have more power to reduce machine numbers in their communities.
We need to make the machines themselves less harmful. They are highly addictive and it is time to make changes to some of the more addictive features of these machines.
Venues need to be regularly inspected and held accountable for non-compliance of host responsibility requirements. Hopefully, the new proposed measures will go some way to ensuring that happens.
When will the Gambling Act be reviewed?
The Minister has signalled that that more systematic change is needed to reduce the harm from gambling and that a potential review of the Gambling Act could happen next year which could see more transformational changes. We urge the government to have harm minimisation and prevention at the forefront of any of these changes to ensure effective consumer protection, particularly for the vulnerable or those known to be more at risk of harm.