Internal Affairs Wants More From Pokie Grants

Submissions are now open for the Harm Minimisation Bill, and the Department of Internal Affairs wants to make some amendments to the legislation. In particular, Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain wants to increase the amount of money that poker machines donate to community organizations via gaming grants.

At the moment, the moment amount of revenue that pokies must donate is 37%. Mr Tremain would like to see that boosted to 43% over the course of the next four years, which would result in an additional $42 million being donated to local community groups.

He also wants to ensure that pokie grants are delivered back into the community from which the pokie revenue was collected. Low income areas have the highest pokie spending, but pokie grants are distributed evenly across the country. As such, disadvantaged communities receive a disproportionate amount of funding from gaming grants.

“There is a perception that money returned to particular areas is disproportionately low compared to the amount that was raised in that area through the gaming machines,” says Mr Tremain. “The potential harm from gambling in particular communities is not being mitigated through commensurate returns to that community.”

NZ Introduces Gambling Reforms

The New Zealand government has introduced new gambling reforms that will encourage gaming operators to return more pokie machine profit back into the community. The new laws will greatly benefit community organizations, providing them with more funding.

Currently, gaming machine operators are required to provide 37% of their profits to community groups. Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain states that the new reforms will ensure that pokies donate at least 40% of their profits. In the future, he would like to see this increase to 45%.

“I know it’s possible because many societies are already exceeding this amount,” Tremain says. “The top six societies average 40.5 per cent pay-out, with one of the top societies paying out 46 per cent.’

According to the New Zealand Herald, for every 1% increase, the gambling market will donate an additional $7 million in profits to local sports, education, arts and culture initiatives. This will greatly benefit the local community, and remove some of the stigma that gaming machines do more harm than good.

The new reforms will also ensure transparency when it comes to pokie grants. This will prevent gaming trusts from misappropriate funds and providing grants to organizations that are in eligible.

DIA Investigates Pokie Fraud

Three pokie trusts and several racing industry professionals are currently under investigation by the Department of Internal Affairs. They have been suspected of collaborating to fraudulently award pokie grants to ineligible organizations and individuals.

The three organizations that have been suspected of fraud are: New Zealand Community Trust, Infinity Trust and Bluegrass Trust. These groups have allegedly manipulated pokie grant applications, committing fraud worth $30 million in grants. At the centre of the scandal is racing trainer Mike O’Brien. It is believed that he worked together with the trusts in order to secure funds for himself and his clubs.

The Department of Internal Affairs has assigned 50 staff members to the case, and has issued 10 search warrants. O’Brien’s home and hotel room were the first locations to receive warrants, and his father’s home will also be searched. Warrants were also issue for pokie trust offices and the homes of pokie trust employees.

This is not the first time that local pokie trusts have been in trouble for misappropriating funds. This has happened many times before, with Bluegrass Trust and Infinity Trust both involved in previous scandals. It seems that there is a serious need to tighten up monitoring for New Zealand’s pokie trusts.