Dunedin mayor Dave Cull says local councils can't protect their communities from problem gambling because they lack the ability to alter government policies.
Mr Cull, who is also the Local Government NZ president, told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning there were some plans in place to remove pokies but not enough to reduce the issue.
"The problem is that communities simply don't have the power to reduce class four gambling machines - they're the ones in pubs and clubs," Mr Cull said.
"Apart from a sinking lid, which a council can put in place, there are no measures so it's the same rules all over the country despite the fact (there are) different views about how they want to deal with problem gambling in their area."
The sinking lid solution is "like a reverse clause", Mr Cull said.
"The sinking lid option can work a number of ways depending on how it's imposed.
"It might be that there's no more venues allowed - if a venue closes another isn't allowed to open - or it might be that if machines are taken out, no more machines are allowed back."
Mr Cull said Dunedin currently has a sinking lid policy but feels more can be done if government allows his local council to do so.
"We would like to see communities empowered to make the decisions about gambling in their area themselves without having to stick to one set of rules, a one-size-fits-all policy that comes out of Wellington.
"I think central government is needing to come around to the understanding that far more decisions about the wellbeing of communities need to be made in the communities rather than from Wellington."