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.

Council Meeting Highlights Unfairness of Pokies Funding

Auckland council has recently held a meeting discuss poker machine funding. It was an interesting event, as a number of shocking revelations were made, prompting the council to rethink the way in which poker machine grants are awarded.

What left council members most disappointed was that public servants were using $40 000 of machine funding to pay for a ‘rich man’s’ sporting event: The Volvo Ocean Race. Racing of this sort is not considering the type of sport that requires funding from poker machines, with youth leagues and community sports supposedly taking precedent.

The tourism board applied for the funding, highlighting another potential concern. When public servants apply for poker machine funding, they seem to be better equipped to file successful applications than community groups who have less experience with funding.

The meeting also dedicated some time to exploring the moral dilemma faced by some community groups when accepting pokies funding. Half of the organizations that receive funding would not be able to survive without it, but half of respondents also noted that there was a moral dilemma presented by taking money generated by pokies and problem gambling profits. Of those surveyed, only 10% of organizations did not accept poker machine funding.

Pokies Funding Must Change to Benefit Communities

When it comes to poker machine funding, it has been recommended that the New Zealand government revamp the whole system. The new Harm Reduction Bill seeks to change how funds are allocated, but some industry professionals believe that the whole system needs a makeover, so as to prevent favouritism in the market.

According to Francis Wevers, former head of the Community Gaming Association (CGA), the way poker machine funding is distributed is quite unfair. In fact, it seems that a wide range of individuals and pubs are using funds in ways that do not benefit the community.

“Stop it being funnelled into pub fishing trips, flatscreen TVs and expensive pub fit-outs,” he says.

Wever states that most pubs believe that they should do with their poker machine profits as they wish and have little regard for the community. Even though they are required by law to donate a portion of the funds, it does not often work out that way.

Some pubs are favoured when it comes to distributing funds, which allows them to use the funding for non-essential purposes. Charities and not-for-profit groups which benefit the community at large are the ones that truly need the money, and Wevers hopes that the new Harm Reduction Bill will make this a priority.

Sky City Community Trust Accepting Funding Applications

The Sky City Queenstown Community Trust is encouraging local charities to apply for funding. The trust provides local community organizations with upwards of $100 000 per year, paying for their operating costs, tools and services.

This year marks the trust’s 10-year anniversary. Over the course of the past ten years, the trust has paid out almost $1 million to more than 300 local charities and community groups. Last year alone, the trust awarded 39 different charities with $95 000 in funding. One of the groups that received funding was Queenstown Primary School, which received money needed to purchase computer technology for students.

“We’re extremely proud we’ve been able to help nearly 300 community groups through the donation of almost one million dollars since 2002”, says Michelle Baillie, General Manager of Sky City Queenstown.

With the proposed Harm Reduction Bill, the Queenstown Community Trust may even provide even more funding to local groups. The bill aims to double the amount of profits that poker machines donate to charity. As such, the Queenstown Community Trust may reach its next million-dollar milestone as soon as 2017.

NZ Gambling Amendment Could Negatively Affect Charities

In the days following the re-introduction of the Gambling Harm Reduction bill, residents and politicians have expressed a great deal of support for the legislation. While most people are caught up in the positive aspects of the bill and what it means for problem gamblers, there are some downsides. Charities across the country are speaking out against the bill, as it has the potential to cut their funding.

In the first reading of the bill, which would give local authorities the power to reduce the number of pokies in their jurisdictions, it was passed by a vote of 83 to 7. It presents a new alternative to gambling reform, and many politicians are on board with the idea.

“I hope that the not-for-profit sector will speak out about this because the community needs our support,” says Kate MacMillion of Riding for the Disabled.

It is a well-known fact that profits from poker machines are used to funding local charities and not-for-profit organizations. Over the course of the past few decades, millions of dollars have been awarded to benefit good causes. Unfortunately, this means that many charities have become dependent on the resource, and will suffer if pokies profits decline.