Increase in pokies will feed town underbelly

A bid to operate more pokies in Arrowtown was "total overkill" and could exacerbate the town's gambling underbelly, a Queenstown Lakes District Council hearing panel was told yesterday.

Three parties objected to an Air Rescue Services application to run nine gambling machines at Jonesy's Cafe & Bar.

Objector Gary Cody, of Arrowtown, said the proposed venue in Ramshaw Ln was a daytime venue for families. He said there was more access per capita to gambling in the Southern Lakes than any other district in New Zealand.

Existing machines in the New Orleans Hotel - the only venue in Arrowtown with gambling - were not widely used.

People were already stealing from employers to feed gambling habits and using mortgage money for bets, he said.

"If the community required more machines they would be queued up outside with people waiting to use them.

"The development is unsympathetic to the character of Arrowtown . . . it could damage its reputation and charm. There's already an existing underbelly, addiction and family breakdown. Morally this is just total overkill."

Air Rescue Services chief executive Barry Steans said the society operated 375 machines in 28 venues, generating $7.6 million this year. Almost 40 per cent of revenue each year goes directly to grants and community groups.

Lawyer Shaun Cottrell said another gambling venue offered choice for people in Arrowtown.

"It allows people who want to participate to do so without having to go to the New Orleans Hotel.

"There's no reason they should not have a choice."

A bar already existed as a venue and it was important to bear in mind the application was a two-stage process and, if allowed by the panel, was subject to approval by Internal Affairs, he said.

There was no intention of displaying signage and . . . two venues and a total of 18 machines was not a "concentration of gambling venues".

Air Rescue Services was formed in 2002 to operate gambling machines and raise money for rescue helicopters and community organisations in Otago, Canterbury, the West Coast and Marlborough.

Commissioners Leigh Overton and Mel Gazzard adjourned the hearing.

The Southland Times