The Hamilton City Council wants to make SkyCity contribute 40% of its profits from pokie machines, just like other gambling venues around the country. They claim that right now only 1.5% goes to community groups across Victoria Street in their draft submission for Gambling Commission’s review on how casinos will have new conditions when they come up for renewal in 2021-2025 due by March 2020.
The council argues this is because it sits across Garden Place and opposite city hall where a glaring discrepancy can be seen between what SkyCity contributes compared to other locations nationwide.
The council has been trying to restrict the casino’s operations, but now they have a plan that could put them out of business.
In the city of Hamilton, SkyCity Hamilton sits across from the council headquarters. Now that a casino is on their radar, in an effort to keep up with other cities and attract more visitors but also be able to compete for business against casinos abroad. The Gambling Commission review has put some focus on this issue because while Class 4 gambling operators – pubs/hotels/clubs- are required by law to return 40% of proceeds back into local communities…the country’s six casinos have no such rules set out!
Sky City Hamilton finds itself looking over at its neighbouring building: Council Headquarters which may soon come under scrutiny as authorities explore ways they can make them competitive both domestically and internationally relative to other cities who now offer various types of gaming
They want 60 more pokie machines approved by the Gambling Commission but they are being denied this request at Thursday’s council meeting. Council chief executive Richard Briggs made it clear in a draft submission that change needs to take place sooner rather than later because of their inability for these kinds of transactions with people crossing borders into New Zealand from other countries like Australia or Asia putting pressure on local government laws restricting gambling venues.
Hamilton City Council is disappointed in the 1.5% of revenue that SkyCity has been giving back to Hamilton’s community, and they are considering legal action against them for not meeting city expectations despite being one of their largest contributors.
Pokie machines are supposed to give random results, but the share of profits from these machines that go back to the community is often a surprise. A study found that Dunedin Casino has given out 1% or more per year for many years and Christchurch casino gave 2.5%. The SkyCity Queenstown gives at least 2.5%, with an annual maximum of $100,000 or greater depending on their net profit annually as long as it’s over $110k.
Hamilton City Council has called for the standardisation of gambling contributions to be 1 per cent. The article also goes on to address that pokie machines are not exempt from this and it should apply even outside them as well.
It is said in a Hamilton News Release by council members, they want all forms of gambling at SkyCity Wharf Casino have 40% returned back into their community fund.
The problem with casino funding has been brought to light in the Waikato region where many community groups are becoming dependent on gambling revenue. This is a dangerous situation because it allows casinos and major companies like SkyCity Hamilton to take money from communities that gamble often without any positive impacts. Paula Snowden, chief executive of Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand said “Skycity’s proposal would allow them [casinos] justification for taking dollars away from our neighbours”.
“Haven’t you ever been in a casino? You know, the lines they trot out are that it’s entertainment and people are having fun. But when I went for my wander through Auckland’s casinos on this occasion, all I saw were desperate faces of those playing at tables or feeding coins into slot machines. It was weird to see so many unhappy looking gamblers who must have had such high expectations before.”
The casino in New Zealand is required to allocate a percentage of their earnings to charities. The money goes into four different trusts that support the well-being and development for local communities, families, people who are struggling financially or those with disabilities.
The level of annual contribution made by SkyCity Casino depended on the authority granted under its venue license from 1985 until 2011 when “the Gaming Act 1981 was repealed.”
SkyCity is committed to its communities and strives for innovation. The SkyCity proposal will consider the full range of stakeholder interests, from meeting licence conditions and sponsorship commitments, to sustainable development in New Zealand communities.