New Zealand: pokie operators allowed to break government regulations

So-called "pokies" are hugely popular in New Zealand.
So-called "pokies" are hugely popular in New Zealand.

Reports claim that New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) let slot machine operators break government regulations for 17 years.

New Zealand.- Slots machines operators in New Zealand have been allowed to break government regulations for 17 years, according to an article by local media outlet RNZ.

According to the claims, in 2004, the DIA stipulated that all available net proceeds from gaming machines must be paid out as community grants.

However, the DIA didn’t take into account that doing that would lead some organisations to be technically insolvent, which would mean breaching New Zealand’s Companies Act and violating one of the financial viability requirements of the Gambling Act.

To avoid that, the regulator let pokie operators hold on to extra funds as a buffer. The amount in question is unknown.

According to RNZ, when the Covid-19 pandemic started, the rules were finally changed and pokie operators were allowed to retain their reserves, up to 1.5 times their liabilities.

A few days ago, the DIA was criticised after announcing a plan to openly publish pub-by-pub statistics for slot machine turnover in order to allow communities to see how much money people spend on gambling.

Pub owners and the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand (GMANZ) argued the plan would be “a virtual shopping list for armed robbers.”

Martin Cheer, chief executive of one of the biggest pokie trusts, said the measure could be implemented once pubs become cashless, but to do it now would be a risk.

He warned that if a bartender gets injured or killed as a result of an armed robbery, the DIA could be held legally responsible if any link to the statistics could be shown.

Dave Robson, the DIA’s new gambling director, said the move would allow communities to understand the amount of money put into “pokies” in their area.

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