The Gambling Commission is going ahead with a public hearing on SkyCity's application to increase the number of pokie machines at its Hamilton casino despite concerns being raised about the mayor's conduct.
Chief Gambling Commissioner Graeme Reeves has confirmed Hamilton City Council along with five other organisations has been granted permission to present at the hearing expected to be held later this year.
SkyCity notified the Gambling Commission about Hamilton mayor Andrew King allegedly threatening to pull council funding for three organisations if they backed its application, the Herald revealed earlier this month.
King earlier told the Herald he had approached Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Chiefs Rugby Club and Northern Districts Cricket Association and said that going against Hamilton City Council's position "may be an issue for future funding decisions". However, he denied making an ultimatum.
But in the latest decision, Reeves said it had responded to the confidential communication which would be "addressed separately and subsequently" if it became necessary.
A Sky City spokesman confirmed SkyCity had received correspondence from the commission after raising concerns about the mayor's conduct and the commission had determined it wanted to proceed with the hearing.
Hamilton City Council is spending up to $150,000 on hiring lawyers to oppose SkyCity's application to the Gambling Commission to swap three blackjack tables with 60 extra pokie machines. Public submissions closed in May.
Along with SkyCity, Hamilton City Council, the Problem Gambling Foundation, Salvation Army Oasis, Anglican Action, the Ministry of Health and the Waikato DHB have also been granted authorisation to be heard.
Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs said the council received a letter from the Gambling Commission last week giving it authorisation to present at the public hearing. The council had not received any correspondence from the commission regarding the mayor.
Nine other people and organisations were denied their requests to be heard because the commission did not believe their appearance would provide further assistance.
Following criticism about the lack of consultation with Māori, the Gambling Commission invited Tainui and other potentially interested parties to submit. Tainui did not respond.
Members of the public are invited to sit in on the hearing.
In a separate decision also released last week, the Gambling Commission has taken a strong stance on third party submissions ruling that any anonymous submissions or ones that did not include clear contact details would not be counted as independent submissions.
Reeves said the decision was made to ensure the documents being considered were genuine.
Gambling Commission executive director Blair Cairncross declined to comment while the commission was dealing with the application.
Dates for the hearing are still to be formalised, but it is not expected to be held before November 2019 due to the availability of commissioners.