Sports organisations reject Wellington pokies 'sinking lid'

6:00 pm on 29 October 2020

Wellington sports groups are pushing the city council to scrap a proposal to ban new pokie machines in the capital.

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Photo: RNZ

The city council's sinking lid policy would mean new pokie venues could not be set up when old ones closed down.

It would also mean venues would be unable to increase the number of pokie machines, but sporting groups fear the financial repercussions.

The council was inundated with submissions on the pokie policy, and began hearing feedback from the community today.

Many sporting groups rely on pokie money as a source of revenue and are vehemently opposed to the plan.

Liz Green from Cricket Wellington told the council meeting the future of sport would be compromised.

"We would be forced to introduce a user-pays system and increase affiliation fees - which will undoubtedly make the game too expensive to play and administer for the majority of our participants, facility users and clubs," she said.

Sue Geale from Netball Wellington echoed those fears, but also questioned what the wider impact on Wellington might be.

"We just wonder how the city is going to survive or be able to cope with the higher needs in other areas that aren't going to be able to be fulfilled," she said.

Bryan Dickinson from College Sport Wellington was asked if private funders could pick up the tab, but said that was tricky.

"The final outcome will be that I will now spend a lot of my time just purely revenue generating ... rather than actually concentrating on the real thing and that's about getting the kids active and improving our participation rates," he said.

Catriona McBean from disability support agency D Sport said without the pokies money, disabled people would not be able to afford to participate.

"If you want to play wheelchair rugby you need a customised chair... a quote I got recently $13,650 for a piece of equipment - I get that through gaming funding so our members don't have to pay for it personally," she said.

However, a local resident, Bernard O'Shaughnessy urged councillors to take a tougher stand against pokie machine companies.

He said they had failed to be good members of society.

"You should reduce the pokie machines by 50 percent - also I'd advocate an equal number of machines must be operated in each ward - it's disgusting, I think, that the poor wards have the most machines," he said.

The city council will hear more submissions on the proposal next week and will consider it again in December.

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