Pokies hit the limit in Napier

By Staff reporters

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An application to run nine pokie machines from a Napier strip club has been turned down because it has been deemed there may be too many in the area.

This has triggered a council gaming policy review.

The application for Class 4 Gaming Consent approval to run nine new machines was made by the Auckland-based Trillian Trust, hoping to house the machines at The Lumber Yard Strip Club. The club operates in premises formerly known as Firecats in Napier's Central Hotel building and does not currently have pokie machines.

The application went before the Napier City Council's regulatory committee under urgency because a council gaming policy review is already scheduled. The decision to decline it, which became a full council decision, does not preclude a similar application once the review is completed.

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said she did not have a problem with the trust's application to run the machines at a strip club.

"I think as long as the managers are good managers, and we have evidence of that, otherwise the police will put in a submissions against it.

But the police have not done that."

Regulatory service manager Michael Webster told the council the establishment of a new venue with nine machines was allowed under the existing policy, but that with the number of venues having already "triggered" a review it was "prudent" for the application to go before the council.

Existing policy allows for a maximum 26 venues with a combined 350 machines. Mr Webster said a maximum figure of 20 venues was "put forward" in draft policy, but the issue is still to be canvassed with the public.

Mrs Arnott said the council used a sinking lid policy to control the number of pokie machines.

"The total number we have allowable now is 350 but I'm not sure whether we will maintain that, it's likely to be a number less than that."

Mrs Arnott said the council was aware the trust used some of the profits from the machines to put back into the community and the opportunities to run the pokies around the country were becoming restricted.

"That is a consideration of council but when I first became involved in this issue, we found Napier had the second highest number of pokie machines per head of population. There is no doubt when you look at the social impact assessment that with fewer pokie machines there is less money spent on gambling."

She was not sure how far the council's sinking lid policy on pokie machines would go.

"We are not saying we don't want any pokie machines but do want to restrict their use, no doubt about it."

Regulatory committee chairman Rob Lutter said the former Cosmopolitan Club in Napier, which was now closed, was allowed to transfer "a lower number" of its pokie machine quota to a club in Taradale.

"But that is a process which has to go through council before it's approved."

He said the council would also be guided from community feedback to its review on the number of pokie machines that should be allowed in the city. "The last time we had a review, in 2010, we had up to 50 submissions and we expect the same this time."

Yesterday The Lumber Yard Strip Club could not be reached for comment.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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