Hotel pleased to do away with pokies

By Raniera Harrison

The owners of one of Northland's most historic hotels are taking a stand against gambling- removing seven electronic poker machines at the Rāwene Masonic Hotel.

"Basically, we, as operators are looking at a loss of up to $1000 a week.  But what price do you put on a community's welfare and well-being?" says Glen Dick, owner of the 143-year old hotel.

The seven pokie machines at Rāwene, Hokianga have been decommissioned "effective immediately" according to the owners.

This comes after a 10-month-old baby was left outside the premises whilst the mother was inside on the pokie machines gambling.

"Just heartbreaking thinking of what we don't see.  I mean this is what we've seen here- but what do we not see.  So we know we've done a good thing," says Lana Marie Turnbull, co-owner of the hotel.

They say their decision to decommission the machines has gone viral online, and they're urging other hoteliers in predominantly Māori communities to follow suit.

"We are only a small establishment, and we only have seven machines but that's seven families.  That's how I look at it- seven families affected.  There are other venues that have a lot more machines, but I'm happy that they're off," says Turnbull, who took over the premises in December last year.

In a post to their official Facebook page, the hotel said Northland's high unemployment rate was a factor in their decision to ban gambling in the venue.

"We dont want to be a part of families being destroyed on the way to helping other causes in the community. Just take away the problem and that's how we see it," says Dick.

The hoteliers say that they are already looking at other revenue gaining avenues that won't have a negative impact on the welfare of the Rāwene community.

"We're a very small venue, in a small community, and we're going to do what it takes to survive".

Te Kāea contacted the Department of Internal Affairs for comment.  They are yet to respond.