On 9 September 2021, Council met to consider a review of the Gambling Venues Policy, which is required under the Gambling Act 2003 and the Racing Industry Act 2020. Council is required by legislation to review the Gambling Venues Policy every three years to consider whether any change is needed and, if changes are proposed, Council is required to consult on proposed amendments.

The current Gambling Venues Policy, reviewed and amended through a special consultative process in 2018, includes a strictly imposed restriction that limits any new Class 4 gambling premises opening in Nelson city to operating no more than five gaming machines. Following the 2018 review and consultation on the Policy, the cap on the number of gambling machines in operation was also tightened, bringing it down from 273 to 162. 

In addition to the five-machine limit, new venues are prohibited from opening in suburban Nelson or within 100 metres of an ATM, school, playground, or place of worship.
A majority of elected members decided that no change is needed to the current Policy and that it was not appropriate to carry out consultation or any further engagement on the decision to retain the current Gambling Venues Policy. Council noted that the restrictive nature of the Gambling Venues Policy is such that it acts as a disincentive and a barrier to the opening of new venues.

Council’s Climate and Environment Committee Chair, Kate Fulton, says that the current Policy is operating effectively and is restrictive in its impact. “The evidence for this is that no new venues have opened since the Policy last underwent a special consultative procedure in 2018. Since then the number of Class 4 gambling venues operating in Nelson has actually decreased from 11 to 9, resulting in a decrease in the overall number of machines from 162 to 140.

“The existing Policy is restrictive in its impact, and by deciding to retain the Policy without change, Council can focus on other important work streams that will result in positive changes for the community right now.”

Council also directed that at the next review of the Gambling Venues Policy in 2024, Council officers are to bring forward a proposal to consult with the community on including a sinking lid clause and a new objective of further reducing gambling harm.