16 Jan 2019

Hamilton Mayor moves to block Sky City pokies expansion

4:12 pm on 16 January 2019

Hamilton's Mayor is opposing a bid by Sky City to add more gaming machines to its Hamilton casino.

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The company has made an application to the Gambling Commission for an extra 60 machines.

It currently has 339.

Mayor Andrew King described pokies as "misery machines".

"I am completely against the casino's application to add more harm and it spits in the face of Hamilton's sinking-lid policy on gaming machines.

"It's a 15 percent increase in the number of pokie machines in Hamilton."

Under the law any increase in gaming machines must be accompanied by a reduction in table games.

Mr King said the casino intended to remove three blackjack tables but that will not be enough to counter 60 new individual chances to gamble.

"It's unacceptable. It's taking from those who can least afford it and feeding into a corporate's pockets.

"I believe the highest harm comes from pokie machines and not the blackjack tables."

Mr King said spending money at pokie machines was not a good way for people to be spending money, which should go into things that make the community a better place.

"Not blow the money away through gambling."

The council plays no part in the decision but it will be making a submission to the Gambling Commission which the Mayor hoped would reflect his position against more pokie machines.

The council will make a decision on its submission at its meeting on 7 February.

Mr King said that if the casino, which opened in 2002, was applying for a licence today he would strongly oppose it.

Sky City Hamilton general manager Michelle Baillie said the number of player spaces available for gaming would reduce under the proposed change and would not increase opportunities to gamble.

The casino said it wanted 60 new pokie machines and in return it would drop three blackjack tables which could accommodate 63 players, which meant fewer opportunities to gamble

"The plan is part of a broader suite of proposals the company is evaluating for its Hamilton site."

The casino employs over 330 employees.