It feels like there’s a growing groundswell of support from community leaders, councils and concerned citizens to reduce the number of pokies in Aotearoa and find a sustainable alternative to fund our communities. This was highlighted recently when Wellington Council voted eight to five in favour of a sinking lid policy for the city and voted in support of asking the government to look at alternatives to pokie funding for community groups.
Councils are increasingly becoming more aware and more concerned about the harm pokies are causing in their communities but are hamstrung by the current legislation that gives them no power to remove unwanted pokie machines, particularly from their poorer communities.
Currently, sinking lid policies are as good as it gets. This policy means that no new pokie machines can be brought into a community and if a venue closes, the machines can’t move anywhere else. The number of pokies eventually reduce.
But there are a few flaws with this policy. Sinking lids take a very long time to work. Machine numbers reduce so slowly and don’t go down in the areas they need to – the poorest communities in Aotearoa where more than 50% of venues are located.
Currently, 27 councils around the country have adopted some form of sinking lid policy – not a bad result given there are 67 councils. But we need to do more – and now.
If we are serious about reducing poverty, family violence, child neglect and other issues that are negatively impacting our communities, we need to significantly reduce the number of pokies in our country.
No amount of charity or community good makes up for the harm caused by these machines. It’s time to take a good hard look at where that money is coming from, not where it is going to. And with more community and sports groups feeling uncomfortable about using funding from pokie grants, it’s time to find an alternative funding solution – one that doesn’t rely on the poorest people in Aotearoa putting money they can’t afford to lose into pokie machines.
What can you do? If your local council is reviewing its Class 4 gambling policy, have a say. If we all shout loud enough about reducing the number of these addictive, harmful machines, someone just might listen.
The 27 Councils who currently have a sinking lid on pokies are:
This list is accurate at the time of publishing on 30 April 2021.