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Sky City’s bid to replace tables with pokies in Hamilton meets opposition 

Thu, Feb 28, 9:54am by Staff Writer

Sky City Hamilton’s bid to swap three blackjack tables for 60 extra poker machines is now open to public submissions, after strong opposition from many in the region, including Hamilton City Council.

News of the plan prompted Mayor Andrew King to write to the New Zealand Gambling Commission, stressing that it should be open to public submission, and also pushing back the deadline for submissions to allow Hamilton City Council to submit.

At a full council meeting last Thursday, councillors were split on whether to immediately approve a draft submission opposing Sky City’s plan, or whether to hold for future information and then make a submission to the gambling commission.

Councillor Dave Macpherson said the submission with council covered it’s position adequately.

“Pokies in my opinion are the methamphetamine of gambling. They cause by far the most harm of any form of gambling in New Zealand,” Mr Macpherson said.

“They suck the most cash from any form of gambling in New Zealand,” he said.

Mr Macpherson went on to say that hardly any money is received on the blackjack tables and that the casino is becoming a giant pokes bar.

“I think 339 pokies is more than enough, I wouldn’t advocate reducing that, but I also say no more.”

Mr Macpherson’s position is one shared by fellow councillor James Casson, who said he had personally witnessed the harms of gambling first hand.

“I’ve been in too many homes myself as a police officer and witnessed the harms of addictive gambling. There is no food in the cupboards, kids go to school hungry,” Mr Casson said.

Councillor Garry Mallett disputed the views of the Mayor and some of his other fellow councillors, believing that problem gamblers are to blame.

“Sky City is a privately owned company, they have every right to proceed the legal development of profits,” Mr Mallett said.

“Every dollar that is spent at the casino is a dollar spent voluntarily, and unfortunately we can’t say the same about council. Rates are not collected voluntarily.”

What has Sky City said in response?

Sky City chose not to comment to the NZ Herald about this matter on Wednesday, but commented on January 21 about the issue to

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.”

Sky City Hamilton has contributed $325 million to the economy since Sky City gained full ownership in 2005 according Ms 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.

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