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Hamilton casino approval farce continues

Hamilton casino approval farce continues

Yesterday’s announcement that Sky City is completing its takeover of the New Zealand casino industry by buying up the last 30% of Hamilton’s Riverside casino that wasn’t already in its clutches, “comes as no surprise to local people who campaigned against the casino from the start”, says gambling issues watchdog group, /GamblingWatch.

GamblingWatch co-ordinator Dave Macpherson said “from the time Sky City bought out Christchurch Casino’s interest in the Hamilton venture just before the casino licence hearing in late 1998 it was odds on that in time the supposed ‘locallly-owned boutique casino’ would eventually become a fully-fledged member of Sky City’s McCasino chain.”

Mr Macpherson was himself an organiser of the Hamilton anti-casino campaign in the late 1990’s, and has been a Hamilton City Councillor for the last 7 years.

When Sky City was not part of the initial Perrys/Tainui/Christchurch Casino proposal, it strongly opposed the granting of a licence to the Hamilton venture, whose principals slammed at the time the slack dress and entrance standards of the Auckland casino, claiming Hamilton’s would be more tasteful, upmarket and boutique-style.”

“But it seems that dollops of cash greased the wheels nicely – as they do across the gambling industry – and opposition turned into full-blown support when all the people involved spotted the chance to make quick bucks out of the Hamilton area,” said Mr Macpherson.

“First Christchuch Casino sold out its interest – and is itself now being taken over by Sky City – then Tainui needed some cash quickly, and now Perry’s is cashing in.”

“With a close 3-2 vote, and several court cases only narrowly confirming the license approval, we don’t believe that this casino would ever have got the go-ahead if people had realized that the latest outcome would materialize,” he said.

“Since the glitzy opening of the casino, the public of Hamilton have been treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark, and fed b……t:

- The casino has never delivered the tourism benefits promised
(pretty much only local Waikato people attend – apart from foreign
students blowing their parental allowances, and the odd police
inspector winning cars during working hours);

- The community liason group set up as a license requirement has
never been consulted on any of the casino’s major decisions (its
own members are about to meet the new Gambling Commission to
discuss their concerns about this);

- The pitiful amount of funding handed out to the local community
(remember the casino has 339 pokies and several gambling tables)
is less than a single 18-pokie bar gives out;

- Since establishment, the casino (like others around the country)
has asked for and received increased hours and increased pokie
machines and gambling tables – but not once has the local
community been consulted over these increases.”

“The entire Hamilton casino experience has been farcical for the Hamilton community, and demonstrates why the overwhelming majority of Hamilton residents was right to oppose the casino from the start,” finished Mr Macpherson.


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