25 Feb

Pokies law passes in New Zealand, Gambling Amendment Bill No.2 approved

In its third and final reading, an amendment to the pokies law was passed by New Zealand Parliament yesterday. Known as Gambling Amendment No. 2, the legislation was designed to reinforce the existing Gambling Act of 2003 and make operators of non-casino pokies and other gambling devices more accountable.

Passage of the new pokies law has been a long time coming. Gambling Amendment No. 2 was originally introduced in 2007, but a strain of revisions and clarifications have been added over the years to ensure that the measure properly identifies and resolves chinks in the system’s proverbial armor. Most importantly, licensed pokies pubs and clubs will be held unequivocally responsible for following the rules and keeping clear accounts of their performance.

“The amendments will help ensure that operators are part of a clean well-run sector,” explained Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs. “It is also made clear that operators can be held to account if they lose sight of this community focus.

“The Bill contains a number of useful measures to ensure the Gambling Act’s harm prevention and minimisation measures work well,” continued Mr. Dunne. “It reinforces the duty-of-care responsibilities gaming machine and casino operators owe to their customers.”

As Mr. Dunne said, there are several primary modifications entailed by the new pokies law. For instance, gambling that takes place at pubs and clubs—anywhere that is not catalogued as a bona fide casino—will fall under the classification of Class 4 gambling. On top of that, applications for funds by all Class 4 gambling operators will be defined more strictly by whether those funds are for distribution or personal use.

Approved grants must be used for the specific purpose in which they were intended and applied for. Operators who do not follow that protocol can now be charged with an offence for failing to comply.

The new pokies law also gives the Secretary for Internal Affairs the right to suspend or withdrawal a gambling operator’s licence for previous, one-off violations of the Gambling Act.

Additionally, the amendment requires both casinos and Class 4 gambling operators to be more socially responsible. Measures must be integrated and enforced to assist problem gamblers where ongoing problems are observed.

“It will not be enough for a gaming machine or casino operator to approach a person once only about their gambling, provide information about problem gambling, and then take no further action if there is continuing concern about their gambling behavior,” said Mr. Dunne. “Essentially, there will be an ongoing duty to provide assistance if it is needed.”

Furthermore, the new pokies law strengthens the existing requirement that all community funds generated by non-casino gaming machines be properly banked. Mr. Dunne said there are large sums of money at stake in the gambling sector, “and we need to ensure, as far as possible, that funds go where they’re meant to go.”

Mr. Dunne concluded that the bill’s legislation will go a long way to more effectively regulate the gambling industry in New Zealand. “Some forms of gambling have a high harm potential and it’s important that the legislation governing that industry remains effective.”