Editorial: Time to tackle social cost of the pokies

NZ Herald Nov 15, 2010
Parliament has made only desultory and discordant attempts to tackle the impact of poker machines. A serious examination of these insidious and addictive machines and their social cost is overdue. Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s Gambling Harm Reduction Bill should be that opportunity. The Speaker, Lockwood Smith, has done his part by giving MPs a conscience vote. It will be a shame if National, Act and United Future ignore the convention of letting MPs exercise their individuality on gambling and alcohol issues and adhere to caucus decisions to oppose the bill. Their voting clout would deny even a select committee hearing for Mr Flavell’s bill, which would replace the charitable gaming trusts that distribute poker machine proceeds with committees appointed by local councils. Councils would be able to ban pokies in vulnerable areas, 80 per cent of proceeds from the machines would have to be distributed locally, and payments to the racing industry would be banned. Additionally, all pokie gamblers would get ‘pre-commit cards’ that would turn off the machines they were using when they reached pre-programmed spending limits.