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A battle won in Kaiti, war on pokies continues

Opinion Piece
Editorial

Ka Pai Kaiti has won a victory, even if it is only temporary, with a favourable decision against the renewal of a liquor licence in the suburb — but the war against the main enemy, the invidious pokie machines, goes on.

The Gisborne District Licensing committee has released a reserved decision in which it has decided to decline the renewal of the on-licence for the Kaiti Club Hotel, a sports bar in the Kaiti Mall.

Ka Pai Kaiti argued that the hotel appeared to operate more as a gambling venue than a licensed tavern, and the committee has agreed.

Therein lies the rub. Although the premises has lost its liquor licence — pending a likely appeal and swift move to provide “appropriate food choices” — the pokies stay. And it is the pokies that are probably doing the most harm.

Last year Gisborne gamblers lost a record $10 million on pokies; by the third-quarter this year, losses were already $7.6m. Gamblers in Wairoa are also pouring in their money, losing $2.5m last year.

If they can keep liquor sales out of the TAB, Ka Pai Kaiti’s pressure will have forced the owner to follow a national TAB policy to get alcohol out of its venues.

When the licence for the main TAB in Peel Street was renewed, TAB representatives said this was being done because alcohol could impair judgement and lead to rash bets. The same thing has happened in Napier, where a modern new TAB is also alcohol-free.

Gisborne District Council has had a sinking lid policy for class four gambling venues, the places where pokies are allowed, since 2005 — although there can be exceptions in special circumstances. It has seen the number of machines reduce to 180 at 12 venues.

Community losses, however, are growing. People are just gambling more at each remaining machine.

Te Ara Tika Trust has campaigned for a tougher council policy, arguing also that the gambling venues are too often located in socially-deprived areas. This is a global phenomenon which escalates the social harm caused by these purposefully addictive machines.