Council proposes ‘sinking lid’ policy on gambling

Council is reviewing its current policy on gambling venues in Tauranga. File photo.

Tauranga City Council is reviewing the policy that sets out how many and where gambling venues can set up in Tauranga, and how many gaming machines can operate in the city.

Public consultation opens today on the draft Gambling Venues Policy 2019 and the community is invited to have their say at by Friday November 16.

Council is proposing some changes to the policy – notably to introduce a ‘sinking lid’ approach that means that no new gambling venues would be allowed to set up in Tauranga, and no additional machines would get approval to operate.

So over time, the number of venues and machines would slowly decline, if venues shut down or give up some of their machines.

Community and Culture Committee Chair Terry Molloy says although some proceeds from gambling get returned to the community through funding to sports clubs, community organisations or the racing industry, the effect of gambling on the social and economic wellbeing of our community is something Council should mitigate as much as it can.

“It’s important we as a Council do whatever we can to manage this, so that Tauranga can be safe, resilient and healthy, with successful and thriving communities.”

Council believes the sinking lid approach will help control the growth of gambling and minimise the harm caused by gambling, especially in areas of higher social deprivation.

“This approach will still enable people who wish to participate in responsible gambling to do so, but we hope that it will make access somewhat more difficult.

“We think that this reflects what the community wants as well. We asked residents last year whether they wanted us to review the rules around gaming machines in Tauranga, and nearly two thirds of responses indicated a preference to reduce the number of machines over time.

“This formal consultation will test this further and help us make a final decision.”

As part of the consultation Tauranga City Council staff will be seeking feedback from the corporate societies that hold gaming machine venue licences in Tauranga, the NZ Racing Board, the 36 venues that host machines in the city, problem gambling services in Tauranga, Toi Te Ora and other organisations and community groups.

The draft policy and supporting information, including a social impact assessment that informed the review, are available at, along with an online submission form. Paper copies are also available at the customer service centre at 91 Willow Street and in libraries. The submission period runs until 5pm on Friday, 16 November 2018.

The rules as they stand

TCC’s current Gambling Venues Policy restricts the number of gaming machines that can operate in Tauranga to one machine per 220 resident population.

This means that as the population increases, the number of gaming machines can increase too. The policy doesn’t restrict the number of gambling venues; so as long as there are gaming machines available based on the population ratio, new gaming machine venues can open.

There is also no restriction on the number of stand-alone TAB venues (standalone means where betting is the primary function of the venue – not the small TAB counters in pubs for example).

For a venue to gain consent to operate gaming machines, it must obtain approval from Council, and then the Department of Internal Affairs may grant a licence. For a TAB venue to open and operate, it must also obtain approval from Council.

The policy restricts the location where venues can operate to within commercial and industrial zones identified in the Tauranga City Plan.

The policy allows venues to relocate with their machines to another site if they must vacate their current premises for reasons outside of their control (e.g. the site is being redeveloped, or their lease is terminated).

Proposed changes

The main changes proposed to the policy are:

  • Do not give approval for any new gaming machine gambling venues (Class 4 venues e.g. pubs or clubs), or stand-alone TAB venues (for sports and racing betting), to be established in the city. No new venues will be able to set up in Tauranga (‘sinking lid’).
  • Do not give approval for any additional gaming machines to operate in the city. Venues with licensed machines can keep theirs, but not add any (‘sinking lid’).
  • Existing venues relocating within the city will only be able to establish within commercial and industrial areas (as per the current policy), but also more than 100m from residential zones with high social deprivation as defined by the NZDep2013 index of deprivation.
  • Amend the objectives to reflect the policy’s intent to minimise harm from gambling in general, instead of only gambling on gaming machines.

The main drawbacks of making these changes are identified as:

  • A ‘sinking lid’ policy will slowly affect the availability of funding for the racing industry, sports and community organisations, and clubs. However, the rate of the effects would likely be slow enough to enable organisations to identify alternative funding models before being adversely affected.
  • New growth areas of the city will not be able to have gambling venues, unless an existing venue is allowed to relocate there.

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