New Zealand government officials have announced they’ll be seeking to push forward with gambling reforms, with new legislation expected to be presented to the country’s Parliament by the end of the year. However, some critics say that these reforms do little to actually combat some of the social problems that come along with legalized gambling.

Non-Casino Groups Would Benefit

The changes are mostly based around how much of the money earned by non-casino groups – namely gambling societies and trusts – must go to community organizations. At the moment, 37 percent of the money earned from slot machines (or pokies, as they are known locally) must be given to sports groups or other community groups.

The new legislation would move this figure up to 40 percent immediately. That number would then continue to rise, eventually settling at somewhere between 43 and 45 percent.

That might seem like a small change, but it could mean a major increase in funding for local groups that rely on gambling society money to meet their budgets. According to reports, every one percent increase in the threshold amount would mean an additional $7 million ($5.6 million US) would be returned to communities.

Additional Reforms Included

Other reforms are planned too, mostly dealing with increasing transparency in the industry. For instance, there would be further rules that would help prevent conflicts of interest, and the Department of Internal Affairs would have more power to cancel gaming licenses, if appropriate. However, gambling societies with clean records could benefit by being granted licenses of two or three years rather than the current annual licenses that are given to clubs and pubs.

However, not everyone is on board with the proposed changes. Both the Labour and Green parties have reversed their support for the bill, feeling that the bill will do little to help New Zealand.

“It is simply unacceptable that the Government’s weak response to the problems in the gaming sector will once again rely on how the gaming industry reacts,” the Green Party stated in a press release.

They also pointed out that the reforms did nothing to combat problem gambling. In fact, forcing venues to give away more of their revenues could force them into taking more risks to attract customers and raise revenues, they suggested.

“The Government should be looking at ways to reduce risky behavior rather than providing incentives for it,” said Green Party gambling spokesperson Denise Roche.