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16 December 2016

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Gareth's reflection on 2016

It's almost a year since I joined Gambling Compliance Group, firstly in the role of Deputy Director and then moving into the Director role in April. It's also been a year since the Department introduced the sector to our vision for the Class 4 sector; where we regulate for a safe, trusted and transparent gambling sector that benefits communities. In this time a lot has happened!

Over the year, we have made progress in putting our strategy into action. This has included work to ensure that licensing is a gateway to the sector. For us to achieve our vision, we must ensure that we have the right people in the sector, who are here for the right reasons. We are also working to better understand why venues transfer between societies to make sure we identify when this isn't happening for the right reasons. If there are nefarious reasons then we need your help in providing actionable evidence for us to progress.  We have also undertaken a project that seeks to improve our venue inspection processes, so that we better identify risk to ensure we're focusing in the right places, and to better support venues to lift performance and create a culture of care for patrons.

But as well as reflecting on our progress, I've also been thinking about the sector's contributions to our vision and our shared objective of building stronger communities. There are some brilliant examples of pokie grants supporting  communities this year; $466,000 to a charitable trust to provide food, shoes, raincoats and health services for children through KidsCan, $350,000 towards child car seat services through RNZ Plunket Waitemata and $400,000 to the Second Nature Charitable Trust to deliver valuable education and life experience challenges for young people.

There was also a total of $2.1 million in grants to the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust to provide search and rescue helicopter services. Recent events, such as the Kaikoura earthquakes have provided me with a timely appreciation of how vital it is that funding is available to support needs in our community, with services such as these.

The recently published online booklet Pokie Proceeds – building strong communities highlights other stories of pokie grants benefiting communities and gives tips on applying for pokie grants. With approximately $260 million in grants going to community causes in the 2015/16 financial year (and approximately a further $50 million to clubs), it's important that we are able to better inform the public of the link between pokie gambling and the grants made to New Zealand communities. I am encouraged with how this has been received by the sector and hope that you link to it in your communications, so we can get this message out.

It's been another year of significant change for the sector.  Venue commission-based payments were introduced in October, and we have continued to progress work on the Class 4 gambling review and three-year licensing. With change can come frustration, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we won’t always get it right the first time.

Because of this, I have a great appreciation for the way we have worked together. I’ve seen a willingness from the sector to work openly with us. Working through issues and any unidentified consequences of change requires your understanding and trust.  There will continue to be change for the sector over the coming year, so I encourage you to be patient and keep an eye on our shared objective of working for communities.

Looking back, the sector's willingness to work with us, from my perspective, has been a positive experience. This year we undertook a series of targeted audits, firstly in the area of grant accountability processes and then looking at management service providers. As I mentioned at the recent sector forums, not only was there a willingness to work with us on this, but we even had some societies put their hand up to be included in the grants audit!

I've continued to be impressed by the way the sector has partnered together throughout the development and roll-out of the Gamble Host resources. Ensuring the sustainability of community funding from the sector depends on getting the balance right between delivering community benefit and having strong and effective protection against harmful gambling. Making sure that gamblers are looked after and are safe is a goal we all need to work towards, and this is why I am so encouraged with the way we have embraced this initiative. The Gamble Host Pack resources and upcoming training package for venue staff and harm minimisation policy template will be very useful resources to help us achieve this goal.

A personal highlight for me this year has been taking the opportunity to get to know the sector more by talking with stakeholders and meeting with society boards. We have a much better chance of getting things right when we have a mutual understanding of our challenges, our goals and our dynamics.

It's this understanding that will inform our approach for the coming year. I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that communities are at the forefront of what we do.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and hope you have a restful break with family and friends.