TAB gambling bar may go alcohol-free

A New Plymouth TAB and bar could soon be booze free with potential new owners applying to run it purely as a gambling venue.

Icons Stadium Bar and Cafe is owned by Sheryl Stones, who also is part-owner with her husband David Stones of The Good Home pub next door.

The New Zealand Racing Board, NZRB, is applying to the New Plymouth District Council for permission to turn Icons into a TAB Board Venue, basically a TAB without a bar.

It would also take over the operation of Icon's 18 pokie machines under the plan.

However, speaking on behalf of his wife, Mr Stones said there had only been cursory negotiations with the TAB about any possible sale of Icons and there had been no decision about the future of the bar.

"From our perspective it is a bit premature," he said.

Acting on behalf of the NZRB, lawyer Jarrod True said the application to run a board venue was a chicken-and-egg scenario. "There is no point signing up a deal if you cannot get council consent.

"We could get consent and then not act on it. It is one of the preliminary things that need to be ticked off," he said.

New Plymouth District Council officers have recommended councillors approve the application, as it is meets the requirements of its own TAB Venue Policy 2010.

In Mr True's application for the venue he referred to a 2006 report by a AUT Professor of Psychology and Public Health Max Abbott as one of the reasons to close the bar.

This linked drinking with an increased difficulty to resist the urge to gamble and prolonged consumption predicating unplanned and extended gambling.

"TAB Board Venues are unique in that they are one of the few venues which offer the ability to participate in class 4 gambling in an alcohol-free environment," the application said.

Up to six staff would be employed at the venue, with a minimum of two staff working at any one time. All staff would be trained in problem gambling awareness and to take appropriate action if a person showed signs of having a gambling problem.

However, Andree Froude of the Problem Gambling Foundation New Zealand, said the removal of alcohol did nothing to address the issue of the addictive nature of pokie machines.

"In terms of problem gambling the situation will stay the same. We are still going to see pokie machines in the TAB," she said.

The council's new regulatory committee will make a recommendation on the application tomorrow. It will then go to the full council for the final decision.

Taranaki Daily News