A guest post by Mike Knell:
Councillor Matthews should apologise for her unfounded and misleading comment about pokie players urinating on seats at a recent Wellington City Council meeting. She should also note a conflict of interest due to her one-sided, biased and misleading comments and abstain from voting at the gambling policy review to be held later this year.
Councillor Matthews’ comments and actions at this meeting, including taking selfies with Problem Gambling Foundation representatives before joining the table, are questionable behaviours from a duly elected public official.
Councillors take an oath of duty to come to the table with an open mind. Clearly, this and other misleading comments and actions illustrate a compromised and misinformed councillor pushing her own political agenda.
If councillors cannot act professionally, present information based on evidence and avoid their own personal opinions where common sense should prevail, then they should be held to public account.
Rebecca Matthews and a group of politically motivated councillors are demonizing the Class 4 fundraising model in an orchestrated manner to push their own agendas and deliberately mislead the public.
The question all ratepayers should be asking is: are these councillors really representing the local community’s voice?
Around 11,000 organisations benefit annually from the Class 4 fundraising model nationally. Many grant recipients we speak to say they certainly cannot do without the support, nor do they need or want councillors to speak on their behalf when in reality all they are doing is chasing a political career.
Wellington City’s current Class 4 gambling policy is, all in all, a fit-for-purpose approach. The existing policy achieves many outcomes and objectives of the Gambling Act. This should be applauded, not conveniently ignored.
There is no evidence that sinking lid policies have reduced the problem gambling rate in the past 15 years, which has remained static at around 0.5% of the adult population. The gambling sector pays a problem gambling levy of around $18 million per annum. On top of this, millions of dollars are invested by Class 4 societies on harm minimisation initiatives and technologies that are proven to be effective at controlling the problem.
It is naïve and misguided to believe that people are going to stop gambling because there are no longer pokie machines. As evidenced by COVID-19 responses, they will simply gamble online and on other products which do not return anywhere near the same, if any, economic benefit to their community.
Wellington City Council needs to take a balanced and factual approach to the harm and benefits from Class 4 gambling. Wellington city enjoyed the benefits from Class 4 gambling to the tune of more than $60 million over 2017 and 2018.
No one has yet come up with a sensible and practical plan B that would at least equal the contributions to the community and local economy from Class 4 gambling.
Adding tens of millions of dollars to the annual rating scheme to replace Class 4 funding will not likely be a favoured nor realistic solution for Wellington ratepayers.
We can’t stop generalisation and we shouldn’t try; what we should do is to avoid generalising incorrectly.
Mike Knell is the CE of the NZ Community Trust and the Acting Chair of the Gaming Machine Assn of NZ