New Zealand’s Honorable Peter Dunne MP, ignited the crowd at the 2016 International Gambling Conference in Auckland this week with an opening speech that welcomed hundreds of delegates from 12 countries around the globe. For Dunne, he said the major focus of this year’s conference would be the regulatory environment surrounding Class 4 gaming (i.e. poker machines; aka slot machines).
Dunne extolled the “diversity of the programme”, noting that about 250 delegates were in the audience – most who travelled overseas to be at the gambling conference – from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the USA, and of course the hosting country, New Zealand.
After offering a few special acknowledgements, Mr. Dunne reasoned that his role in the deliverance of the opening speech had a lot to do with his political prowess throughout New Zealand. “In addition to my role of Associate Minister of Health, I am also the Minister of Internal Affairs,” he noted.
Dual Political Roles a Positive for NZ Pokies Players
“I have held both of these roles at various stages over the last two decades or so, however, this is the first time I have done so at the same time,” said Mr. Dunne, commenting on the significance of his dual positions. “As Minister of Internal Affairs I am essentially the regulator, whereas as Associate of Health I am responsible for minimising the adverse effects of gambling.
“I see the ‘dovetailing’ of these two ministerial roles as a positive, enabling me to maintain a broad overview of the wider gambling and harm minimisation sectors.”
He then spoke of the current Gambling Act, which was passed in 2003. Although he assessed the laws as “still working”, he said he believes “some change is warranted”, and that lawmakers will be evaluating the regulatory environment this year.
“This assessment will be about better understanding the dynamics of the Class 4 or non-casino electronic gaming machines sector, and in the wider gambling environment, and what they mean for the current regulatory framework,” explained Mr. Dunne.
Ministry and Pokies Operators to Work Together
The MP expressed his appreciation for Class 4 pokies operators, who’ve taken the initiative to establish “their own representative group to work with the Department on this process, and am looking forward to what I hope will be a constructive interaction.”
Mr. Dunne said that those operators are obligated to put forth considerable effort towards the prevention of gambling harm, and that based on research and the nation’s own service user data, “there is a need to strengthen performance in this area.”
He said that he understands that operators of pubs and clubs where poker machines are installed face great challenges in undertaking the role of problem gambling prevention and minimisation, and that the Health Promotion Agency has been working diligently to provide operators with supportive material to help staff members positively approach and communicate with potential problem gamblers.
Over the coming months, Mr. Dunne said his colleagues will decide what steps should be taken to “restore greater public confidence” in New Zealand’s ability to protect those who may be at risk. “Public confidence will only be built by a demonstrable commitment to player protection and basing the industry on responsible gambling, not on those gambling to excess,” said Mr. Dunne.
The Ministry’s strategic plans through 2018/19 “will continue work to align services to prevent and minimise gambling harm and other health and social services over the next three years,” he said.
He also touched on the topic of online gambling in New Zealand, which does occur, despite being illegal. He noted some stakeholders have raised concerns over the potential proliferation of online gambling, but Mr. Dunne said that research shows “relatively few” residents are taking part.
Of those who do gamble over the internet, the majority “purchase only New Zealand Lotteries Commission and New Zealand Racing Board projects,” he said.
“The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments in this area,” confirmed Dunne.