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Sky City Hamilton to swap blackjack for pokies

Mon, Jan 21, 12:12pm by Staff Writer

One of Sky City’s casinos in New Zealand is proposing to remove three blackjack tables and replace them with 60 poker machines. Sky City Hamilton’s total number of poker machines would rise to 399 if the proposal is approved.

There has been staunch opposition the city’s mayor Andrew King who described pokies as “misery machines”, according to Radio NZ.

The request has been lodged with the New Zealand Gambling Commission, who will consult with affected parties and social services before making a final decision.

As reported by, councillor Gary Mallett doesn’t see a problem with increase the number of machines.

“For gamblers, having a place to go with firm regulations in a place that is less harmful than them staying home to gamble on the Internet,” he said.

Cr Mallett went on to say that; “it’s probably better to have gamblers in a place where staff are trained to recognise problem gamblers, whom they can ask to leave.”

Hamilton Mayor against more pokies

Mayor King believes the proposal “spits in the face” of Hamilton’s sinking lid policy, which doesn’t allow for any new gambling machines in Hamilton.

“I believe this will increase casino gambling,” Cr King said.

“Sky City wants to capitalise on a high-earned harm product by requesting 60 more misery machines.”

“Getting rid of the “probably empty” blackjack tables, in exchange for the 60 pokies would look to improve [Sky City’s] bottom line with misery money,” he said.

Mayor King had a supporter in councillor Dave Macpherson who agrees with his stance, calling pokies “gambling methamphetamine.”

He has urged the minister of Internal Affairs Tracy Martin to instruct the Gambling Commission to open the submissions up to public consultation.

“Pokies have been shown to be the most addictive form of gambling,” Cr Macpherson said. “These are something council has been trying to prevent for more than a decade.”

Sky City contributes to the community

Sky City Hamilton has contributed $325 million to the economy since Sky City gained full ownership in 2005 according to Sky City Hamilton general manager Michelle Baille.

Of that, $149 million is in salary and wages, $139.6 million in taxes and levies, $25.8 million in payments to local suppliers and $11.1 million in community support and sponsorships to more than 1,600 groups.

The request to add further pokies is a response to demand from customers Ms Baille said.

Sky City Hamilton’s General Manager Michelle Baillie said the request to add further machines is a response to the demand of customers.

“The number of player spaces available for gaming will actually reduce under the proposed change, and therefore will not increase opportunities to gamble, as we have submitted to the Commission. The Gambling Act provides for such changes with the Commission’s approval,” she said.

The plan is part of a broader suite of proposals Sky City is evaluating for its Hamilton site, including maximizing its riverside location and adding a hotel and broader entertainment options,” Ms Baillie said.

“Sky City consistently reinvests in its facilities and in Hamilton and over the past three years this has included a number of new restaurants and bars, totalling more than $21 million.”

Cracking down on poker machines and the revenue they generate for the community has alarmed community groups such as Balloons over Waikato.

A policy that would crack down on the number of poker machines in the region attracted 74 written submissions of which 76 per cent of them said the new policy would be too restrictive.

Some told Hamilton City Council that their businesses would not survive without the pokies revenue.

Approximately 40 per cent of the money used to run True Colours Children’s Health Trust comes from poker machines, chief executive Cynthia Ward said.

Gaming money makes up 22 per cent of the revenue of Netball Waikato-Bay of Plenty Valley according to their chief executive Rohan West.

The Hamilton City Council will make a decision on this most recent submission to add 60 poker machines to Sky City at its February 7 meeting.

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