Alcohol Healthwatch is a charitable trust which undertakes alcohol health promotion activities both regionally and nationally, with the aim of reducing and preventing alcohol-related harm and promoting safe and healthy drinking environments. To achieve these goals Alcohol Healthwatch takes a population or community based approach to health which endeavours to promote well-being and to prevent ill health. These activities follow the public health model.
Alcohol Healthwatch believes that it is important that the Responsible Gambling legislation incorporates a similar public health approach to gambling in New Zealand. The legislation states that it takes a harm prevention and minimisation approach.
It is, however, important that the focus of health inventions should not simply be on the “problem gambler” but rather encouraging a supportive environment that engages the whole community. For this reason Alcohol Healthwatch is encouraged by the legislative intent to give great community control over gaming venues.
Alcohol Healthwatch has considerable experience in the liquor licensing area and has worked with a number of local communities in relation to liquor licensing issues. A consequence of the rapid explosion of gambling machines in New Zealand has been the proliferation of casino bars in local neighbourhoods. This situation has arisen principally because of the Department of Internal Affairs policy of linking gaming machine license to a liquor licence.
These developments have alarmed many local communities as they consider that they would have a detrimental social impact on their area. Alcohol Healthwatch has worked with Auckland communities in Sandringham, Glen Innes, Waiheke and Otara and also communities in Hamilton in response to these concerns. This has included drafting planning objections, appearing before planning hearings and opposing liquor licensing applications. As a result of these activities we are particularly concerned at how the Responsible Gambling Bill will works at a community level.
Alcohol Healthwatch is also very concerned about how gambling is advertised and promoted. Alcohol Healthwatch has considerable experience in dealing with the issues of liquor advertising and the self-regulated Liquor Advertising Codes. We have made a number of complaints re liquor advertising to the Alcohol Advertising Complaints Board as well as making submissions to the Liquor Advertising Codes reviews.
Alcohol Healthwatch is also concerned about how the money generated by gaming machines is held and distributed. It appears that money that is intend for charitable purposes is used as a means of de-facto promotion of the funding organisation. We are also aware of a number of anecdotal stories where the recipient of community funding has been required to used a certain bars or services. For these reason Alcohol Healthwatch believes that moneys for community funding should be held by the government.
2.0 Gaming Machines And Community Controls
Alcohol Healthwatch supports the Responsible Gambling Bill approach of increasing community input to the gaming machine controls. Philosophically, Alcohol Healthwatch believes that community control is a key element of health and well-being.
2.1 Venue Policy
Section 91 states territorial authorities must adopt a gambling venue policy before 1st January, 2003 for all class 4 venues. Alcohol Healthwatch supports this initiative. However, when considering this aspect of the Bill, it is important to reflect on the legal status of the venue policy and how it fits in with other legal documents such as District Plans and the Resource Management Act. It also raises the question as to what will happen to existing operations that do not comply with a venue policy?
2.2 Sections 91 (3)
Alcohol Healthwatch supports the general criteria in determining where class 4 venues may be located. In particular for ( c), (d), (e) (f).
Clause (f) states “whether it is otherwise desirable to increase the opportunities for class 4 gambling in the district.” Alcohol Healthwatch believe this clause is particularly important and must be included in the legislation. It allows for a public health approach to gambling and local community control of the process of licensing.
It is important that a proper and robust consultation process is put in place by local councils to discuss the issues of a venue policy. The Bill refers to Local Government Act (1974). This Act is due to be replaced by new legislation. The new Local Government Bill includes the requirement for councils to develop a community plan. This community plan should therefore incorporate the venue policy for class 4 gaming.
2.4 Reducing Gaming Machines
Alcohol Healthwatch also supports the reduction in the number of gaming machines from 18 to 9 machines per site. It is Alcohol Healthwatch’s view that this will stop the proliferation of casino bars in local communities and be a clear restraint on the more marginal operators.
2.5 New Technology and Existing Machines
However, Alcohol Healthwatch still has concerns relating to the number of gaming machine currently in the community and the ongoing development of technology for these machines which means they can take larger denominations of money and operate faster.
3.0 Host Responsibility Policies
3.1 Alcohol Healthwatch believes the concept of Gambling Host Responsibility need to incorporated into the gambling legislation. There also needs to be a requirement that each class 4 or casino venue must have its own Host Responsibility Policy as a requirement for a licence. This should be included in section 65, Content and Conditions of a class 4 licence.
Failure to meet legislative Host Responsibility requirements or breaches of the operators own Host Responsibility Policy should be grounds for the suspension or cancellation of a class 4 or casino licence. This needs to be clearly stated in section 53 of the Act.
3.1 Class 4 licences need to be granted for a set period of time. (Possibly 3 years.) Followed by the requirement to undergo the process of renewal of license.
3.2 Section 281 Regulation Relating to Harm Prevention and Minimisation. Unfortunately it is Alcohol Heathwatch’s view that this section fails to go far enough! The focus is on the individual problem gambler rather than the public health model. As this section is a general section that sets out the powers of regulation, it needs to set out a reference to public health policies and to Host Responsibility Policies.
4.0 Suspension and Cancellation of Gaming Licence and Role of Gaming Commission
4.1 Alcohol Healthwatch believes it is important that poor or illegal operators can be identified and have their licences suspended or canceled. This is an extremely important part of the licensing process. As part of the criteria for determining poor operator there needs to be Host Responsibility requirements incorporated into the Act. In the case of liquor licences it is illegal for bar operators to serve intoxicated patron or minors and these can be grounds for losing their liquor licence.
4.2 Gambling Commission
Part 3, Section 194 outlines the make up the Gambling Commission. Alcohol Healthwatch believes that the structure of the Gambling Commission is a sensible approach. Emphasis should be placed on dealing with licence applications and cancellations on an administrative level (e.g. the Victorian Liquor Licensing legislation) rather than be based on a judicial level.
5.0 Advertising and Promotion of Gambling and Public Health Response
5.1 It is clear that advertising and promotion plays an important part in encouraging people to use the gambling industries products and creating consumer demand. There is now a considerable amount of money spent on advertising gambling.
5.2 Controls on gambling advertising and promotion would be a significant public health intervention. In the case of tobacco there is a complete ban on advertising as well as the placement of health warnings on all products as part of the Smokefree Environments Act (1989). In the case of alcohol there are codes for the advertising and promotion of liquor. Public health initiatives by health groups and parliamentarians have also sought a ban on alcohol advertising and the provision of health warnings on product and advertisements. Alcohol Healthwatch believes that such controls are better set out in legislation rather than regulation.
5.3 Alcohol Healthwatch has considerable experience in dealing with the Liquor Advertising Codes and has made a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (ASCB). The ASCB comes under the auspices of the Advertising Standards Authority which undertakes the role of self-regulation of the advertising industry.
The Advertising Standards Authority also employs the Liquor Advertising Pre-Vetting (or LAPS) adjudicator, this person has the role of advising advertisers whether their adverts meet the standards of the code. Prior to 1991 liquor advertising was monitored by the Broadcasts Standard Authority so there are alternatives to self-regulation by the advertising industry.
Alcohol Healthwatch opposes the spending of large amounts of money to advertise and promote gambling and the consumption of alcohol. The debate concerning alcohol advertising has been framed in such a way as to whether advertising encourages excessive consumption. It is difficult to show a direct link between advertising and “excessive consumption”. It is important that restrictions on gambling advertising take a different approach.
The self-regulatory approach to alcohol advertising as embodied by the ASA has little public health benefit. There are no sanctions contained within the process other than a requirement to remove the advertisement. The process of complaint often takes a number of months, so that in most cases the advertising campaign in question has come to a natural end. Skilled advertisers constantly push to the edge of the Codes. For examples hazardous actives such as water sports or the use of cars are not supposed to be associated with the consumption of alcohol. However, production companies have come up with techniques for getting around these restraints. The existence of the LAPS process itself is also used as a reason for not upholding a complaints against advertisements. It is Alcohol Healthwatch’s view that each complaint must be looked at de novo and that ASCB’s approach is questionable in law. As a consequence of these failings it is Alcohol Healthwatch’s view that self regulation of advertising doesn’t work.
5.4 The Responsible Gambling Bill seems inconsistent in its approach. Section 11 of the Bill state that advertising of overseas based gambling is prohibited except if it carries (a) a health message concerning gambling. Is this tacit acknowledge of the public health impacts of gambling and the need for health warnings or is it simply to block revenue? In which case it could be considered an unfair restraint on trade.
It is Alcohol Healthwatch recommendation that all gambling advertisements should be accompanied health warnings.
6.0 Government Levy and Control of Community Funding
6.1 The present system for the distribution of charitable funds is of concern to Alcohol Healthwatch. The current system allows for organisations such as Pub Charity and the Lion Foundation to distribute very, very large amounts of money. This money is supposed to be given away to the community and tagged for charitable purposes, however, inevitably it is also used to promote these organisations. This seem a misappropriation of what the funds were originally intended for.
On this basis Alcohol Healthwatch supports steps with in the Act to remove gaming machine operators from the distribution of grants.
7.0 Liquor Licensing and Gambling
7.1 There is a suggestion in the Act that there won’t be the same requirement for gambling licences to be tired to a liquor licences, as is the case at present under the Department Internal Affairs Policy. However, this is not made explicit and the way the criteria is worded and continuing requirement to exclude minors means that most gambling licences will still be associated with liquor licences.
7.2 Alcohol Healthwatch is interested in what other means can be developed in the legislation to exclude minor from class 4 gambling areas. Conditions relating to age in class 4 gambling venues need to be more explicitly stated in, Section 47, Grounds for granting a class 4 operating licence, and Section 48, Content and conditions of a class 4 operating licence.