New Zealand town force u-turn on Pokies

Locals from Ōtorohanga have won their battle against district councillors following proposals to relax the clampdown on pokie machines.

The debate over the popular pokies has been ongoing for a number of months after the Ōtorohanga District Council decided last October to ditch its long-standing sinking lid policy. Last year’s vote resulted in the rules around the machines being loosened, likely resulting in a significant increase in the number of pokies allowed within the area. This sadly could mean an end to free spins bonuses for New Zealand residents.

However, a public meeting on Tuesday has now seen that previous decision overturned and the sinking lid policy will now remain in place. The meeting came after months of public objection and submissions against the changes.

Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter was in favour of continuing with the sinking lid policy and was left delighted with this week’s outcome.

“Common sense prevailed at the end of the day,” he said. “We’re here to represent our community, and if we’re not listening to what our community is saying, we’re not doing our job.”

75 of the 80 submissions made to the Ōtorohanga District Council were against the changes to the policy, leaving just five in favour of the original decision eight months ago. Pokie machines are extremely popular amongst the nation’s gambling community but restrictions will remain.

It is law in New Zealand that 40% of net pokie machines proceeds must be distributed as grants and Paul Singh said the decision wholeheartedly reflects the opinions of the local community.

“I’m the president of Ōtorohanga Sports Rugby Club, and I’m also involved in Federated Farmers, so I think I’m fairly well connected to our community.

“Look, I haven’t met one person in this community who thinks ditching the sinking lid policy is a good idea.

“It’s always a temptation to go for the easy money. But I think it’s detrimental to the club in the long term.”

Jarrod True, who was on the side of the Gaming Association of New Zealand and Clubs NZ, disagreed and believes communities will be worse off for not having pokies.

“With gaming machines, societies have a policy of returning the funds back to the local communities in which they were generated. That’s great if you’ve got machines, but it means that there’s no local machines, there’s no local grant funding,” he added. “People have always gambled, and people will always gamble in the future. All you need is two coins.”