In light of the overview concerning the social costs
of gambling in Rotorua, the Survey, the Initial Stakeholder Engagement and the
fact that reductions in venues and machines have been far less in the last five
years, the Council is proposing a ‘sinking lid’ and no relocations policy.
The Gambling Act and Racing Act give councils certain limited powers to regulate the number and location of venues and gambling machines. There are four main options the Council can consider going forward:
- Adopt a ‘sinking lid’ and no relocations (preferred option);
- Lower the ‘cap’ and no relocations;
- Adopt a ‘sinking lid’ (or lower the ‘cap’), but allow relocations; or
- Status quo (with refinement to relocations).
Adopt a ‘sinking lid’ and no relocations (Preferred option)
One option open to the Council is to amend the current Policy by introducing a ‘sinking lid’ and ‘no relocations’ approach. This would involve:
- limiting TAB venues to the existing venues;
- limiting Class 4 gambling venues to the existing venues;
- limiting gambling machines to the current number of gambling machines;
- not allowing relocations of gambling machines (in other words, if a venue closes, the machines at that venue cannot be relocated or replaced elsewhere).
As a consequence, should venues close over time, the ‘sinking lid’ and ‘no relocations’ approach will reduce the number of venues and the gambling machines in them as those venues close. Extraordinary circumstances could still be managed through the Council making decisions inconsistent with the Policy (for example, if a natural event made a business unviable in its existing location). The Council has made extraordinary decisions inconsistent with the RLC Gambling Policy in the past regarding the Rotorua Club.
Seventeen other Councils around New Zealand have introduced ‘sinking lid’ policies along the lines above, including the Kawerau District Council.
Auckland Council has a ‘sinking lid’ and ‘no relocations’ policy.
This approach would result in natural attrition of the number of venues and machines over time, if venues closed. The Policy would not affect existing venues that remained open. In the event that the effect of the policy rapidly reduced the number of machines to the current national average of 3.8 machines per 1000 population, or 273 machines (based on the projected population of Rotorua in 2018 of 71,800; Census medium projection 2016 update) before the expiry of the policy, an earlier review of the policy than defined by statute could be triggered.
Lower the ‘cap’ and no relocations
Currently the ‘cap’ is 380 machines and the number is now 382. Essentially the ‘cap’ has been reached.
An alternative to a ‘sinking lid’ would be to lower the ‘cap’, perhaps to the national average of 3.8 gambling machines per 1000 people, or 273 machines in Rotorua (based on the projected population of Rotorua in 2018) and not allow relocations. This would have a similar effect to a sinking lid until the cap was reached.
Again, this approach would result in natural attrition of the number of venues and machines over time until the ‘cap’ was reached. The Policy would not affect existing venues that remained open.
Adopt a ‘sinking lid’ (or lower the ‘cap’), but allow relocations
The other option open to the Council is to adopt either a ‘sinking lid’ or lower the ‘cap’ as above, but allow relocations.
The current RLC Gambling Policy allows for a process similar to a relocation in Section G. Where a society surrenders its venue licence at one location, Council may consent to that society or another society opening at a different venue, subject to the number of gambling machines complying with Sections C, D and E and these being meet within the ‘cap’. Sections C, D and E respectively allow for venues to be established within the CBD, or in other commercial zones not having a deprivation score of 8 or above, or in locations commonly used for sporting or other recreation purposes. This provision in Section G has, for example, had the effect of supporting venues to shift from certain locations in the CBD to other locations in the CBD.
If the Council wished to allow for relocations, it would be useful to clarify Section G further by ensuring any relocation could only be carried out if the new location:
- had a deprivation index score that was the same or lower than the existing location;
- was in the CBD, another commercial zone or a location commonly used for sporting or other recreation purposes; and
- met the other criteria in Sections C, D and E (for example, being no closer than 100m from a school).
On this last point, it might be noted that the RLC Gambling Policy provides that the 100m be measured along the footpath rather than it being a radial distance. This aspect of the Policy might be amended to a radial distance if a relocation policy is to be included.
Status quo (with refinement to relocations)
Finally, the Council could retain the status quo, but clarifying Section G as set out above.