Tokoroa gambling venue’s boss, Wendy Cook, has rejected increasing doubts that the facility is taking advantage of a loophole in New Zealand Government’s legislation – a violation which the gambling site had been alleged in. A local community group has opposed the planned new gambling venue which would feature 30 poker machines and shared intentions of taking the matter to court.
Lately, the South Waikato town of Tokoroa has seen an increased criticism faced by the Pockets 8 Ball Club, following a gaming license obtained by the venue which would allow it to run 30 poker machines in case that it joins forces with a couple of other facilities – the Putaruru District Services Memorial Club and The Olde Establishment.
Ms. Cook, who is the general manager of the venue, explained that a total of 13 clubs apart from the Pockets 8 Ball Club have merged to consolidate their presence in the area since the implementation of the Gambling Act of 2003. She utterly denied rumors that the gambling site is taking advantage of a legislation loophole and explained that the local council updated its policy in terms of gambling venues following a thorough public consultation process, so no provisions were breached by the club.
According to Ms. Cook, the approval for such a merger and operation of 30 poker machines was given by city’s council. Then, the Department of Internal Affairs reviewed and confirmed the permission as valid. Pocket 8 Ball Club’s general manager further explained that the merger would be positive for the community, as it would end up with an overall reduction in the pokies’ number in the region. In case that the estimates provided by Ms. Cook are correct, the gambling machines’ number would be reduced by four, while the venues’ number would be cut by two.
Anti-Pokies Campaigners Seek to Stop Club’s Gaming License
However, it seems that many residents of Tokoroa do not believe that such positive benefits would follow the merger and installation of 30 pokies in the region.
The Feed Families Not Pokies group has shared its fears that the roll-out of 30 pokies in Tokoroa would end up creating a mini-casino that could increase gambling addictions, possible gambling-related harm and boost poverty in the region. Colin Bridle, a spokesperson of the activist group, insisted that the site should not be approved, and called for the authorities to stop the “pokie madness” across the community.
According to Mr. Bridle, more than 2,000 people from the community have taken part in the anti-pokies campaign by signing a petition to support the group’s request. The community group also intends to take legal action to stop the club’s gaming license.
Mr. Bridle’s claims have been backed by Andree Frounde from Problem the Gambling Foundation, who further explained that poker machines are having detrimental impact on small towns’ communities. According to Ms. Frounde, more than NZ$5 million were lost on poker machines in Tokoroa in a year only. She further highlighted the fact that gambling is harmful for the entire community, and especially for young individuals.
According to information provided by Ms. Frounde, approximately 75% of the South Waikato poker machines are currently located in Tokoroa.