Community and Public Health says its time for the Timaru District Council to introduce a sinking lid policy on gaming machine numbers.
The Timaru District Council is being urged to implement a “strong sinking lid policy” regarding the number of gaming machines in its area.
Community and Public Health (CPH) said in a submission to the council’s draft gambling venue policy that there is no cap on the number of gambling venues or machines in the district and no commitment to a sinking lid policy.
The CPH submission states that 31 per cent of local authorities in New Zealand had sinking lid policies for non-casino gaming machines and a further 55 per cent had caps on the number of venues and/or machines in their area.
According to the Department of Internal Affairs, there are 14 venues with gaming machines in the Timaru District, and a total of 165 machines. In 2014, there were 24 venues and 265 machines.
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In contrast, the Waimate District Council, in 2018, limited the number of machines to 30 – there are currently 19 – while the Mackenzie District has five gambling venues, and a total of 42 machines with a cap of 64.
“A sinking lid means that no new license for gaming machines can be issued, and machines cannot be transferred to a new pub or owner if the venue closes,” the CPH submission says.
“The strongest sinking lid policy does not allow any relocations or club mergers under any circumstances.”
CPH said it did not support the Timaru council’s proposed relocation policy.
“If a venue relocates, they should apply for a new license under the conditions of the existing gambling policy, which has been designed with the health of Timaru communities in mind.”
The council’s policy allows for venue owners to shift their machines if they wish to relocate, but CPH say this will only increase harm.
“The council has provided rationale about potential impacts on business, which we challenge. Firstly, we encourage the council to consider the negative impact on people when gambling machines, and a large number of them, are introduced due to events beyond their control. Secondly, according to the Department of Internal Affairs, venues are required not to rely on gaming revenue for survival.”
CPH also states that “increasing gambling opportunities compromises health, safety, and prosperity as gambling machines are engineered to be addictive, much like tobacco products, with damaging consequence.”
CPH also took issue with the policy of allowing gaming machine venues outside of the Timaru township to be within 25 metres of residential zones, sensitive sites or other gambling venues.
“This distance is minimal compared with the 100m required within the Timaru boundary.”
Council had received 13 submissions on the proposed policy when they closed on Monday.
Hearings are set for November 26 with a final decision at the December 10 council meeting.