Flood of pokies? with big losses

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Pub pokies in the Waka­-tipu have increased 37 per cent in three years – and local punters are losing
$1.8 million annually. 

The figures come from a gambling policy review by Queenstown Lakes District Council.
In December 2006, pokie machines in the Wakatipu totalled 46, QLDC official Roger Taylor says. 

By this January there were 63 – Queenstown 28, Frankton 27 and Arrowtown eight. This is over and above the 160 pokies in Queens­town’s two casinos. 

Taylor reckons the average loss per pub pokie machine in the Wakatipu and Wanaka is now $29,492 but pokie trusts say averaging the figures is “grossly incorrect”. 

Submissions to QLDC’s review saw the Salvation Army call for a “sinking lid” policy – meaning every time a pokie machine is removed or a venue hosting these machines closes, they will not be replaced. 

But Taylor rejected this, saying it would lead to an over-concentration of casino gambling. 

In leaving its policy unchanged, QLDC has failed to correct a glaring error. The council policy says pokie trusts must provide QLDC with six-monthly reports showing win receipts, site fees and community grants paid out. 

But when Mountain Scene sought this information last November, QLDC admitted pokie venues refuse to give it to the council – and we have no legal power to force them, QLDC confessed. 

Yet the policy charade will continue for another three years, with Taylor saying: “The policy should continue to require [pokie trusts] to provide the information, albeit they do not comply.” 

Denied this flow of information, Taylor’s review analysed pokie trust websites to calculate how much was being taken out of the district in wins and how much was coming back in local grants. 

“Overall, only around a quarter of the minimum [trust] payout of funds taken in the district is returned to organisations within the district,” Taylor’s report then claimed. 

The giant Pub Charity reacted angrily, its chairman threatening legal action – Taylor apologised but stood by the essence of his claim.