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MDC tackles gambling

Masterton District Council [MDC] is one step closer to introducing tougher gambling venue rules as it considers imposing more gaming restrictions than other Wairarapa councils.

MDC expressed its preferred position for tougher rules at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday.

The council voted for upcoming gambling rule proposals to ban class four gambling venues [pubs and clubs] from relocating under any circumstances.

The proposed blanket prohibition on relocation for those venues is currently not included in draft proposals considered by South Wairarapa and Carterton councils at their recent meetings.

Other proposals for consultation, which are agreed on by all three Wairarapa councils, include no new standalone TAB venues being established and restrictions on consenting additional gaming machines.

South Wairarapa and Carterton’s proposals currently only include a restriction on the relocation of class four venues to Wairarapa’s most deprived areas [defined as having a deprivation index of decile one or two] if the proposed location is outside of the main town centre.

After Wednesday’s meeting, a MDC spokesperson said the Wairarapa policy working group will reconvene to consider the different positions of the three councils and recommend a way forward.

“Recommendations could include consulting on a joint policy with a regional variation on relocations,” the spokesperson said.

A report tabled at the meeting stated reasons that might support stricter gambling rules in Masterton compared to other Wairarapa districts, based on the findings of a social impact assessment [SIA].

Gaming machine spending is higher in Masterton. In 2022, the spend for each of the 64 Masterton gaming machines was $5,103,411, In Carterton $1,802,076 was spent on 27 machines and $1,649,746 in South Wairarapa on 51 machines.

Meanwhile, the 2022 spend on a population basis was $215.33 per person in Masterton, $213.77 per person in Carterton and $159.70 per person in South Wairarapa. Nationally, it was $196.95 per person.

Masterton district also scores higher on socioeconomic deprivation indices than the other two districts.

“A key finding from the SIA was that gambling harm is disproportionately experienced by those living in high socioeconomic deprivation communities,” the report said.

“As part of the SIA, survey participants were asked where in the Wairarapa problem gambling is perceived as most concerning.

“Although most skipped this question and noted that the issue was not specific to one particular area, the second most common response indicated that Masterton was a place where problem gambling was most concerning.”

Only about 19 percent of gaming machine profits were returned to Wairarapa through grant funding, which was low compared to other regions. Only a few services working to address gambling harm had received gaming trust grants in the past year. -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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