Hutt community groups to suffer from bad data
The Hutt City council’s decision to implement a sinking lid policy on gaming machines means community groups that rely on them for funding will suffer.
Chair of the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand (GMANZ) Peter Dengate Thrush said that not only did the Hutt City council get misled by shoddy data, but its new policies have also shown no efficacy in reducing problem gambling. The only outcome will be community groups and clubs going wanting
“Hutt City Council reported that $29 million in profit was collected from gaming machines, while $4 million was returned to Hutt-based community and sports groups in the form of grants. These are misleading numbers.
“The actual figure for grants to the Hutt community was $5.2 million, not $4 million. And that’s just the start of the deception.
“As well as the hospitality venues that have gaming machines, there are five clubs in the Hutt region with gaming machines. Their proceeds are included in the $29 million in profit quoted by the Council.
“These Clubs do not provide “grants”, but rather use the proceeds for club activities and maintaining their premises for the benefit of their members.
“For example, money collected from the Naenae Bowling Club was spent on things like maintaining the greens, repairs, maintenance of the clubrooms and other overheads. The funds applied by Clubs isn’t captured by the $4 million in grants but was money that benefited community groups.
”When you total up the Clubs’ proceeds and the true grants figure, the actual value of funding to the Hutt Community was $8.5 million – more than double the number the Council used in making its decision.
“What is even more concerning is that a sinking lid policy may actually make problem gambling worse,” says Mr Dengate Thrush.
“Academic research shows that since sinking lid policies were put in place, the number of problem gamblers hasn’t gone down at all. We understand why people might think such policies reduce problem gambling but they don’t. They force those who might be susceptible to problem gambling to visit online gambling sites, where there is no regulation, no enforcement, no trained staff and no chance of getting help.
“In fact, under its previous policy, the number of reported “interventions” (the measure of those seeking help for gambling) in the Hutt was steadily declining.
“With this new policy, we don’t help people who may need it when it comes to problem gambling, but we do hurt local organisations.
“As an industry we don’t want people suffering harm from problem gambling any more than a pub wants intoxicated patrons. Using gaming machines is something that many people do as part of a fun night out without suffering any harm. Sinking lid policies have no material impact on problem gambling but do turn the funding tap off for numbers of community groups.
“Ministry of Health statistics indicate there are 8000 problem gamblers in New Zealand and while this is lower than many may have thought, it’s still 8000 too many. We won’t get this number down by taking away gaming machines. We get this number down by destigmatising gambling, making people feel safe in seeking help, and introducing aggressive harm minimisation initiatives. Sinking lid policies just punish community groups,” said Mr Dengate Thrush.
“The Hutt City Council got the level of the grant funding completely wrong, and have abandoned a policy causing a drop in problem gambling and opted instead for one that just drives the problem online and unmonitored.
“We’re concerned that the Hutt City Council was misled by erroneous data, leading to flawed policy making. We would hate to see sports and community groups miss out, and potential problem gamblers not helped,” said Mr Dengate Thrush.