New venue gets lucky
An amalgamation of clubs in South Waikato will bring with it a minicasino of 30 gaming machines, upsetting some in the Tokoroa CBD.
The venue is under construction in the former Q-masters building and is a merger of Pockets 8 Ball Club, The Olde Establishment and the Putaruru District Services Memorial Club. Both of the latter outlets have been struggling to stay afloat in recent years but the merger will see staff retained.
The merger will also see the number of pokie machines in Tokoroa increase by three but the overall number in the South Waikato decrease by six. The venue is undergoing a fit out and was expected to open later this year.
The move has angered nearby business owner Lorraine Young.
‘‘They are dumping unprofitable pokie machines from Putaruru into a vulnerable profit centre. Deprivation in Tokoroa is associated with family violence, vandalism, theft and homelessness,’’ she said.
The council has supported the move despite the district having the fifth highest spend per head on pokie machines nationally. In the last 12 months that has equated to over $7 million in gambling losses.
South Waikato District Council environmental health manager John Anderson justified the council’s approval for the new gaming venue, in Tokoroa’s Bridge St.
He acknowledged the adverse effects but said the merger was in keeping with the council’s sinking lid policy because pokie machine numbers would be reduced overall.
‘‘The council considered a number of factors in granting site approval, not just sinking lid. Some of the other considerations were retaining employment for the staff working at the clubs, the member’s wishes and support for the merger, and that clubs of this nature contribute to social wellbeing of our communities,’’ Anderson said.
‘‘The council considered that on balance. The benefits of the merger outweighed the negatives.’’
He said while the council granted site approval in 2015, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) processed the actual application for the operation.
‘‘No formal [public] consultation was required, however members of all three clubs involved in the merger were aware of the proposal and unanimously support it,’’ he said.
Young said Bridge St must not lose its CBD family spaces character. ‘‘Gambling hotspots destroy a safe family environment,’’ she said.
She said public consultation should have taken place.
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