The application of SkyCity Hamilton to dispose of blackjack tables and place poker machines instead will now be open for public submissions, following fierce opposition.
Previously, the entertainment complex has proposed to remove three blackjack tables from the SkyCity casino in Hamilton and add 60 more poker machines at their place. The idea, however, fuelled strong opposition, with Mayor Andrew King to address the Gambling Commission, urging it to start a public submission.
A full council meeting was held last Thursday, with councilors’ opinions being split on whether to give an immediate approval to a draft submission which was filed by opponents of the plan unveiled by SkyCity, or whether to give it more time in order to be provided with further information on the issue and then make a submission to the local gambling commission.
According to Councilor Dave Macpherson, the submission was fully in line with the Hamilton City Council’s position. He shared that in his opinion, poker machines, also known as pokies, could be described as the most dangerous form of gambling in the country. He further added that New Zealanders spend most money exactly on poker machines.
In contrast, there is hardly any money spent on blackjack tables, which is why SkyCity casino is slowly turning into what he called “a giant pokie bar” which can hardly be regulated by Hamilton City Council. Councilor Macpherson said that 339 pokies are more than enough for a gambling venue.
SkyCity Casino’s Application Faces City Councilors’ Opposition
This is the first time when a casino has filed an application to exchange table games for poker machines. Such a change could only be done in case that the local Gambling Commission decides such a move is proportionate.
The change would take the total number of pokies available at SkyCity Hamilton to 399.
As mentioned above, SkyCity Hamilton casino’s plans to replace blackjack tables with poker machines faced some opposition among city councilors. Several interested parties wrote to the Commission urging it to open public consultation on the matter.
Another Councilor – James Casson – shared that he had personally seen the harms which problem gambling inflicts not only on players’ lives but also on their families. Other Councilors such as Garry Mallett, however, believe that it is not poker machines but gamblers themselves who are the main cause of the problem. According to him, SkyCity has every right to seek legal ways that would help it boost its profits, and players spend their money voluntarily.
The casino officials, however, see the proposed change as an “important initiative” for the casino. They have argued that the effects which are expected to be seen by the pokies’ addition would be neutralized by the blackjack tables removal.