Maybe it was a coincidence that saw the NZ Herald’s two opinion pieces on the SkyCity convention centre deal yesterday appear the same day that the commerce select committee report back to the house a drastically watered down Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment bill that deals with pokie machines in pubs and clubs.
Or maybe it’s a sign of the times and gambling is becoming less and less attractive as people wake up to the fact that the gambling industry trades in misery and harm to make money.
Personally I’m deeply disappointed that the gambling bill has taken the form it has. Originally in the name of Te Ururoa Flavell it was well intentioned and promised to give councils and communities more say over pokies in their communities and where the money would be distributed. It was also meant to clean up the industry and include in legislation measures to reduce harm to gamblers through player tracking and per-commit cards. What is being reported back though cuts across council’s ability to use their gambling policies to reduce the number of pokies in venues if they chose to allow them to relocate.
It’s this cutting across what councils can do with their gambling policies that irks many local government politicians. Julie Fairey’s blog makes the point that the Sky City deal undoes the good work the council has been doing on reviewing their pubs and clubs gambling policies and the feedback from the communities that they want to reduce the number of pokies across the Auckland region. She makes the point that the government has repeatedly said that overall pokie numbers are dropping in NZ – but that’s because the gambling law says no new casinos will be opened and is largely due to councils introducing sinking lid policies for pokies in pubs and clubs. Adding another 230 to the mix in Auckland is like opening another casino.
The other opinion piece yesterday referred to the cronyism inherent in making a special set of laws to support the Sky City deal. We’ve been banging on for ages that changing the legislation for your mates is unconstitutional and dangerous for democracy. It’s good to see the legal fraternity endorsing that view.