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Racing industry reforms will see more gambling harm in the community, expert says

Racing industry reforms are expected to cause more harm to the community, with the laws designed to boost revenue for the horse and dog racing industry, an expert says.

Two of the controversial changes that could be made are raising alarm bells with the Problem Gambling Foundation, including the removal of restrictions on the TAB operating pokies, and the introduction of virtual horse racing, beginning at the start of 2020.

The Problem Gambling Foundation's Andree Froude said the lifting of the TAB's restrictions on pokies will result in less money going into communities.

Under the current law, pokies operators are "required to return 40 per cent of the gross machine proceeds to community purposes, whereas the TAB are only required to return 20 per cent to amateur sports," she told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"That's just an arrangement they made with the previous government, so we're going to see a reduction in the amount going back to communities."

Ms Froude said the Racing Board is being treated differently to other gambling operations because it's "just an arrangement that has been made", but the Foundation says "pokies and pubs and clubs are still the most harmful form of gambling."

"No amount of charity or community funding makes up for the harm they cause in our communities."

While the TAB says their staff are required to have better practices than other, commercial gambling operators, Ms Froude said there's "absolutely no evidence that that's the case."

"There’s no greater or lesser requirement for the TAB to provide host responsibilities than any other provider of gambling products."

Ms Froude also raised concerns over the repeal of Section 33(3) of the Gambling Act.

"If that section is repealed, that will allow the TAB to then go and purchase pubs with pokies and then operate them," she said. "And then a lot of that money will get siphoned back into the racing industry so we’ll have one form of gambling funding another."

Another concern raised was the introduction of virtual racing, which will see "horse racing moving from the track – the physical, live horses – to computer-generated horses that will be on a computer."

"With that comes the risk of online gambling, such as its accessibility. It’s available 24/7; it can be easily hidden; people can spend a lot of money very easily on credit cards, so there's a lot of risk with online gambling, and that's what we could see with this virtual racing."

She said while the Government intends to promote industry-led harm minimisation through part of the TAB's levy, the "proof will be in the pudding" as to whether it will lead to change within the community.

"The proof will be in the pudding because they have actually said that part of the TAB levy that's been allowed to, over three years, go back into the industry, part of that is going to be industry-led harm minimisation, so we don’t know what that’s going to look like, but we want to see something that is really robust that will protect consumers."

A Select Committee process will be held in the future for people to voice their opinions on the changes.

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The Problem Gambling Foundation’s Andree Froude joined Breakfast to discuss the new laws for TAB pokies and virtual horse racing. Source: Breakfast