Problem gambling: Wellington City Council votes to adopt 'sinking lid' policy for pokie venues

Pokie machines could become more scarce in the capital as the Wellington City Council votes to adopt a sinking lid policy.

That means they won't go into any new venues, bringing Wellington into line with other cities like Auckland and Christchurch - but it means less funding for the community.

That jackpot just got a little bit more elusive in Wellington, with Councillor Tamatha Paul leading the charge against pokies.

"I think it was hearing all of those stories and the real-life impacts of problem-gambling and how that impacts," she said.

A similar vote failed five years ago - but after hearing harrowing tales of gambling's impact, councillors voted 8 to 6 for the sinking lid on Thursday.

"They regularly have to change the chairs because people sitting on a pokie machine are not wanting to lose their place, would urinate on themselves rather than give up their spot," councillor Rebecca Matthews explained.

The vote means no new licences, and if a venue changes hands or shifts due to earthquake risk, the licence goes too.

"People are going to gamble - let's have it in a safe, controlled environment as opposed to an unregulated, online market," gambling legal advisor Jarrod True said.

Wellington has already lost 35 of its 75 pokie venues since 2004. The gaming industry argues problem gamblers make up just a tiny proportion of pokie users - one in 1000.

"That's at the severe end of the spectrum - it's 20,000-odd New Zealanders," Problem Gambling Foundation CEO Paula Snowden said.

"The moderate mild gamblers, that's another 200,000 adult New Zealanders - and that's not talking about their families or their employers or those affected by it."

But some argue the pokies are propping up a hospitality industry reeling post-COVID, plus handing $61 million a year to community sports and arts.

"The demand for funding from gaming, sporting and community organisations is unlikely to change, especially given the dearth of viable alternative funding options," said Phil Gibbons, Sport Wellington CEO.

But the mood has shifted. Councillors, finally swayed by the argument that $111,000 lost to gambling could be better spent.