In a White Paper released today, the Salvation Army Oasis, Hāpai Te Hauora Tapui and the Problem Gambling Foundation, provide a solution to end the community sector’s dependence on funding from pokie machines.

With pokie grants all but dried up due to the COVID-19 lockdown and consequent closure of pokie venues, the authors are calling on the government to initially roll over existing funding directly to community groups for six months with a view to long-term reform of the system.

Paula Snowden, Chief Executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation, says a system of funding that relies on New Zealanders losing $934 million in 12 months into pokie machines, the majority from people in our poorest communities, needs to change.

“Evidence shows that between 30-60% of losses into pokie machines is from problem gamblers,” she says.

Many of the community groups that receive grants from pokie trusts have expressed concern about the ethical dilemma of having to do so.

Salvation Army Lieutenant Colonel Lynette Hutson says the money community and sports groups receive in grants is often coming from the very whānau and communities they are trying to support. 

“These services are essential to many people and they deserve to have certainty and sustainability in their funding,” she says.

The White Paper outlines the complex process of funding community groups through the pokie system, including where the money comes from, the distribution of grants to community services and sport, the impact on tax collected along with an interim and longer-term solution to support community groups.  It is a system where 60% of the losses on pokies run the system and 40% is paid out in grants with thelion’s share going to national interests.

Selah Hart, Chief Executive of Hāpai Te Hauora Tapui, says in the public health interests of all New Zealanders we should not be robbing Pita to pay Paul and expecting a few to lose a lot of money to benefit us all.  

“The pokie grants system creates a cognitive dissonance between those who receive the funds and the impacts on the real people in the community who have provided the funds, with charities unjustifiably accumulating a “goodwill” reputation at the expense of a vulnerable community of problem gamblers.

The location of pokie machines means they severely impact Māori and Pasifika. The grants system is inequitable,” she says.

The three organisations have long been concerned at the reliance many community groups have on grants from pokie trusts or societies to underpin their operations.  

They hope that this White Paper will provide both a short and long-term solution to end community sector dependence on grants that rely on people who cannot afford to, losing money into pokie machines.

A copy of the White Paper is attached.

Note to editors:

1. New Zealand is one of the only countries that allows pokie machines for the purpose of collecting funds to be distributed for authorised purposes.

2. Pokie machines in pubs and clubs are the most harmful form of gambling accounting for almost 50% of people who seek help about their gambling.

3. There are currently 34 pokie trusts/societies which were created to collect gambling proceeds and distribute grants. They are required under the Gambling Act to distribute at least 40% of Gross Machine Proceeds (GMP), the money lost on pokie machines.

4. We are concerned at the current rhetoric from trusts requesting funding for their own administrative purposes while also requesting a reduction in the minimum distribution of proceeds required. 

Download: White Paper Ending community sector dependence on pokie funding