SkyCity's application to swap blackjack tables for pokies will now be open to public submissions, after strong opposition including from Hamilton City Council.

SkyCity is proposing to withdraw three blackjack tables from Hamilton's casino, and replace them with 60 extra pokies machines.

News of the plan prompted Mayor Andrew King to write to the 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 on Thursday last week, councillors were split on whether to immediately approve a draft submission opposing SkyCity's plan, or whether to hold for further information and then make a submission to the gambling commission.


Councillor Dave Macpherson said the submission with council, covered the council'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 hardly any money is received on the blackjack tables, and that the casino is becoming a giant pokie bar.

"I think 339 pokies is more than enough, I wouldn't advocate reducing that, but I also say no more."

Councillor James Casson said he had personally witnessed the harms of gambling.

"I've been in too many homes myself as my prior life as a police officer and witnessed harms of addictive gambling, there is no food in the cupboards, kids go to school hungry," Mr Casson said.

"It put these people into the behaviours they wouldn't usually go into."


Councillor Rob Pascoe supported an amendment put up by councillor Angela O'Leary to wait to submit until further information has been heard.

"I think one of the things we typically fail upon is that we have not got the evidence from the police or DHB, to actually support what these machines do in our community.

Councillor Garry Mallett said problem gamblers were the main cause of the problem.

"SkyCity 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 that the same about the council. Rates are not collected voluntarily."

Councillor O'Leary's amendment was voted down eight votes to four.


The motion to submit on the application was passed 11 votes to one, with councillor Mallett against.

Councillor Paula Southgate was absent.

This is the first time a casino has applied to exchange table games for more gaming machines; it can only do so if the commission decides the change is proportionate.

SkyCity Hamilton said it did not want to make any further comment at this time.