Proponents of the Class 4 gambling (non-casino pokies) sector justify these losses by saying the money eventually finds its way back to communities through grants from pokie trusts; yet in 2019 only $241 million was paid out in grants - or less than 26% of the losses for that year.
We’ve known for a long time that a major moral issue with New Zealand’s pokie system is the community funding model, which is inextricably linked by law to pokie harm. The Gambling Act (2003) requires that “proceeds” from pokie gambling in pubs and clubs is returned to “authorised purposes”.
We think there’s no better time to look at reforming this system for funding community services, to give more direction and certainty in a whole of community approach. The COVID-19 level 4 lockdown and consequent closure of hospitality businesses has starkly highlighted the dependency of community groups on grants funded from pokie machine losses.
It has also provided an opportunity to address this issue and work towards ending community sector dependence on funding from pokie machines – the most harmful form of gambling in Aotearoa.
As our country recovers from the economic and social impacts of our COVID-19 response, we want to create a new-normal when it comes to New Zealand’s pokie system.
The government has already funded through Budget 2020 several groups who would usually rely on pokie funds. In May the government announced a Sport Recovery Package worth $265 million over the next four years, as well as $63 million in funding over the next four years for water safety services such as Surf Life Saving NZ.
Sports organisations received more than $120 million in pokie funding in 2019 – these short-term funding boosts from the government show we are taking a step in the right direction and can afford to fund community and sports groups without relying on money from pokies taking.
It’s time for change.
You can download a copy of the paper here.