Published: 17 December 2021
In a unanimous decision yesterday, Hutt City Council introduced a sinking lid approach to pokie machines in the city, which means the number of pokies currently in Lower Hutt is the highest it will ever be.
"Council has a responsibility to support the wellbeing of all our people. In 2019, $29 million in profit was collected from gaming machines in our city. Of that, only $4 million was returned to the Hutt-based community and sports groups in the form of grants," says Policy, Finance and Strategy Chair Simon Edwards.
"Lower Hutt has well above the national average number of pokies per capita. We need to take an approach that minimises harm."
During consultation, Council heard from a range of people and community groups, including local sports clubs, that rely on funding from pokie machines. These groups are worried about a drop in funding if pokie machine numbers are reduced in the city, but many are also uncomfortable that this funding source causes harm to families.
"Community groups are an important part of our city, and we have heard and understand their concerns," Cr Edwards said. "We've taken a balanced approach by introducing a sinking lid, and we will be strongly advocating to central government to consider providing alternative sources of funding that don't rely on pokies."
Following this decision council officers will gather and report on gambling data annually, and work with Local Government New Zealand around a central government review of the Gambling Act and online gambling.
"The highest concentration of pokies are in our most in-need neighbourhoods, and the community funding that results often ends up in our more well-off communities. For Lower Hutt to be a city where everyone thrives, we need to make fairness a priority."
This policy came into effect yesterday, 16 December, and is in line with similar decisions by councils in Porirua (2013) and Wellington (2021).
The policy can be read in full here.