Auckland Council Passes Sinking Lid Policy

After months of deliberation, Auckland City Council has decided to passed a sinking lid policy on poker machines. Over the course of the next few years, Auckland will see a decline in the number of pokies throughout the country.

Councillors have spent the past few months reviewing submissions from other 10 000 sources. Responsible gambling group No More Pokies gathered 9000 submissions in support of the sinking lid policy, showing overwhelming support from local residents.

A number of provisions have been put in place in order to ensure that the number of pokies is reduced over time. Firstly, clubs owners that choose to relocate cannot take their pokies with them and they cannot offload the licenses to other operators. Clubs that merge can only host 5/6s of their combined poker machines; the rest of the games must be discarded.

Experts believe that problem gamblers will feel less compelled to engage in compulsive behaviour if there are fewer opportunities to gamble. As such, it is hoped that a decline in poker machine numbers will help to reduce gambling spending and problem gambling rates across Auckland.

New Pokie Grant Reforms Introduced

In New Zealand, local politicians have introduced new reforms that will change the way pokie grants are distributed. For the past few years, several pokie trusts and pub owners have been caught misappropriating funds, and local politicians want to cut back on these crimes.

“We have examples of conflicts of interest that are at the root of some of the current investigations that are going on so there’s many examples without specifically naming individual ones,” says Chris Tremain, Minister of Internal Affairs.

Many different types of pokie grant fraud have taken place over the years. Many clubs and trusts provide pokie funds to individuals that are not eligible for grants while other organizations withhold their funding altogether. The goal of the new reform will prevent this from happening by making the system more transparent. Since more information about these transactions will be made public, pub owners and trusts will be more reluctant to circumvent the system.

At the moment, few details have been revealed – but we do know that these reforms will be implemented along with the Harm Reduction Bill. As more details about the legislation are introduced, we will keep you updated.

Pre-Commitment Proposed for Harm Reduction Bill

MP Te Ururoa Flavell has introduced a number of new provisions to his Harm Reduction Bill. After garnering a great deal of support for the legislation, he has decided that several new responsible gambling methods would benefit the community by reducing problem gambling rates.

Flavell seems to have taken some inspiration from Australia’s federal government. This week, he proposed that pre-commitment and tracking technology is installed on all poker machines in clubs and pubs across the country. Players would be given pre-commitment cards, which would require them to set their own betting limits before they wager. The tracking systems would then ensure that they do not exceed these limits.

According to recent studies, pre-commitment seems to be an effective method to reducing problem gambling. Although it has not been put into practice yet, Australian politicians believe that players will be less likely to exhibit compulsive gambling behaviour when they set their own betting limits.

This is just one of many new provisions that Flavell has introduced. He has also proposed that 80% of pokie profits be returned to the community from which they game via grants. This would ensure that the areas that require problem gambling assistance the most obtain the funding for counselling and aid that they truly need.

Pokies Spending in New Zealand Declines

Across New Zealand, politicians are throwing their support behind a new Harm Reduction Bill. This newly proposed legislation aims to reduce the potential harm that can be caused by pokies, by reducing the overall number of pokies in the country. Although the bill has yet to be passed, it seems to be working already, as Kiwis are spending less on poker machines.

According to statistics, pokies spending in New Zealand has dropped by 3.1% across the country. In 2011, New Zealand pokie players spent $866 million and these numbers dropped to $844 million by the time 2012 had ended.

Gaming experts speculate that the decline in pokies spending is likely due to the Harm Reduction Bill. Even though its provisions have yet to take effect, the bill has received a great deal of press in the local media. It has brought attention to the potential harms of poker machine gambling and it seems that this news alone was enough to get many residents to adjust their spending habits.

The drop in spending could also be attributed to the overall decline in poker machines across New Zealand. 463 pokies were removed from the community in 2012, as a result of local sinking lid policies. With fewer pokies to play, some residents are likely to have stopped playing altogether, contributing to the decline in spending.

Councils Mull Sinking Lid Policy

In New Zealand, politicians are getting tough on poker machines. In addition to the introduction of the new Harm Reduction Bill, city councils want to introduce sinking lid policies to further reduce the number of pokies in their jurisdictions. Auckland City Council is currently in the process of hammering out the details of its own sinking lid policy, which put strict limits on how many poker machines can exist in the area.

As it stands, local councillors have voted for the strictest option. They have requested that, in addition to reducing the number of poker machines over time, the sinking lid policy should also prohibit poker machines from being moved. This means that venues that have relocated cannot bring their pokies with them and venues cannot sell their machines to other locations.

One exception that councillors have supported is allowing clubs to merge, in order to ensure that they stay afloat. However, politicians believe that clubs with poker machines should not be able to move their games to clubs that do not have pokies – even if they merge. There is some debate over this provision, but many politicians are in support of it.

Less Funding for Organizations As Pokies Spending Declines

One of the benefits of having residents spend millions of dollars on pokies every year is that a large portion of the revenue goes to charities across the country. However, it is a double-edged sword, as decreased pokies spending has left many local arts, education and social assistance programs struggling to meet their fundraising goals.

From April to June 2012, West Auckland residents spent $8.31 million on pokies. This is a significant decline from the same period in 2012, when $300 000 more was spent on the games. Across the whole of New Zealand, only $212 million was spent on pokies, down from $220 million the year before.

This means good things for the concern over problem gambling, as less spending is a sign that less harm is being done. However, there is a Catch 22, seeing as many local charities are not receiving as much funding as they are used to.

While this may seem like a bad sign at first, it is simply a push in a new direction. We are certain that most of these organizations do not want to support problem gamblers; so it will mean that they will have to find funding elsewhere. It may be an uphill climb, but several sports clubs and hotels have done so, and we believe it will start a positive trend.

New Superman Pokies from Aristocrat

The superhero trend for poker machines has re-emerged. Years ago, Cryptologic developed an entire series based on Marvel Superheroes, which saw a great deal of success. The trend died out shortly, but now gaming developers are getting back into the spirit – and Aristocrat is one such designer.

Aristocrat’s Superman: The Movie pokies comes out at the perfect time, amidst all of the superhero blockbuster movie buzz. The Avengers was released in June and The Dark Knight Rises will hit theatres at the end of the month. So, now seems to be the perfect time to release a poker machine based on one of the world’s most famous superheroes.

Superman: The Movie is based on the 1978 Superman film, which sparked
mainstream interest in DC Comics. As such, the game will appeal to a wide range of players from across New Zealand and in other gaming markets. Not only will pokies fans enjoy the game, but so will movie buffs and comic book fans.

The game has seen its initial release in Las Vegas this month. We are excited for Aristocrat to bring Superman: The Movie pokies to local casinos and clubs across the country.

Mana VP Wants to Ban Pokies

In Christchurch, victims of the recent Earthquake have turned to poker machines to deal with their grief. As a result, problem gambling rates are on the rise and John Minto – Vice President of the Mana Movement – believes that residents should be able to have the power to ban poker machines from their communities.

Last year, the number of money lost on poker machines rose by nearly 10%. This brought the total amount of losses to over $100 million for the first time ever. Community leaders have reason to believe that the Earthquake has caused their spike in gambling rates, as those suffering from the disaster play poker machines as a form of escapism.

“How can this government sit by and allow pokie profits to rise when they know that those who are impoverished are the victims who gamble?”, Minto asks.

John Minto believes that poker machines prey on the poorer areas of the community, as half of the pokies in Christchurch are concentrated in the areas with the lowest average income and employment rates. He suggests that locals should be able to have a say in how many poker machines are allowed in a community, vetoing the addition of new machines and venues if they see fit.

Casino Patrons Make Slow Return to Christchurch

It has been ten months since the earthquake, and businesses across Christchurch are still have trouble returning to their form glory. It seems that a decline in tourism and more cost-effective attitudes among residents have contributed to lost profits for local businesses, and casinos are among the most negatively affected.

Christchurch Casino has seen some of the worst financial effects of the earthquake. After reopening in May, profits had dropped by 30%. Now, in December, profits are still 15% lower than they were during this time last year.

Job losses among local residents have likely contributed to the situation. Locals have less money to spend on leisure activities, so casino and gambling spending have dropped. Additionally, tourist numbers are much lower than they were in the previous year, and tourism dollars are very valuable to casinos.

The demolition of hotels around the casino has also have detrimental effects on the casino’s business. With no places stay close by, fewer people are taking the trip out to Christchurch to visit the casino.

The casino’s operators, however, are confident that things will return to normal soon. They believe that Christmas will bring in an influx of business before a full financial recovery is made.