Auckland Council has voted to keep its sinking lid policy for pokie machines in the region.
The council's Regulatory Committee agreed to continue with the policy at its meeting yesterday, and deputy chair Josephine Bartley said it was the only option it had to prevent new pokie machine venues opening.
"I'm pleased we're keeping the sinking lid, but personally speaking, gambling causes so much harm ... there is more that needs to be done," she said. "More support is needed for addicts and their families."
According to a report to the committee, more than half of the people in Auckland seeking treatment for gambling addictions are from South Auckland. And just over half of those seeking help are gaming machine users.
Under the Gambling Act 2003, Auckland Council must have its own gambling venue policy and set out whether the council will allow new venues to be established and if so, where they can be located.
In 2013, the council agreed to a sinking lid policy for Class 4 pokie machine venues. The policy means no new consents are issued for new venues and prevents the machines from one club being transferred to another if it closes, helping to reduce the overall number of machines.
Before Tuesday's meeting Problem Gambling Foundation spokesperson Andree Froude said sinking lids were too slow and didn't do enough to address problem gambling.
But in response Bartley said the council's powers were limited by legislation.
"We passed the item and our only option was to retain the sinking lid to prevent further new licenses."
Froude agreed with Bartley and said a lot of councils around the country had introduced similar policies because they were the only tool they had.
"They are restricted in what they can do and it would be good if they had more powers. But sinking lids are as good as it gets."
Froude said under the Act the council couldn't shut down venues in poor areas like South Auckland and instead had to wait until they shut.
She said the Gambling Act 2003 had helped in many ways to help control pokie machines but it now needed to be reviewed and possibly amended to better meet the needs of New Zealand now.
New figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) show South Auckland had both the largest number of machines and the highest pokie expenditure for the three months to 30 June. Gamblers in the Papakura area spent $1,759,727 on 198 machines, while in Manukau pokie machine users spent $2,710,110 on 180 machines.
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