Casino giant SkyCity have made a sudden U-turn on plans to shut their gaming tables after the move was revealed by Stuff.
The news has been welcomed by problem gambling campaigners as a victory for common sense.
The Gambling Commission gave SkyCity interim permission to operate only the pokie machines at its Hamilton and Queenstown casinos until the end of Alert Level One after hearing the casino company faced a “softening” market because of Coronavirus.
SkyCity had also applied for a permanent relaxing of Condition 8 – the rule forcing them to always operate at least one table game, such as roulette or blackjack – at all their casino sites, including Auckland, when the doors were open.
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The move had shocked the Problem Gambling Foundation, who say poker machines are the most addictive form of gambling. It was also unpopular with pub gaming machine trusts, who are compelled to return 42 per cent of the money lost in machines as community grants, while SkyCity gives closer to six per cent.
But after Stuff reported on SkyCity’s applications to the commission, the casino giant rapidly announced it would withdraw its bid for a permanent change to condition 8.
In a statement, chief executive Graeme Stephens said table games would continue to be “an integral and profitable part” of the casino’s business.
“As such, the application to obtain this dispensation on an ongoing basis is not required and has now been withdrawn.”
Stephens’ statement suggested the Hamilton and Queenstown moves had been safety-related. The two casinos now had “health and safety protocols” allowing them to offer table games.
However, the Gambling Commission’s decision said it had rushed through permission on economic grounds, saying SkyCity faced a “softer and evolving market”. Table games are more expensive to run as they take up much more staff time than pokies.
The casino had earlier explained the move was to “provide operational flexibility in the uncertain…