Tie vote leads to No New Pokies in Westport, New Zealand
The Westport Motor Hotel has a lot worth appreciating. From the charming décor and award winning gardens, to the versatile conference room and over two dozen spacious guest quarters, the hotel is genuinely a prime location for locals, business travelers and tourists alike. When guests arrive, they can enjoy the complimentary cookies, have a nip from the mini bar or take a dip in the heated pool. But there’s one thing they cannot do – play the poker machines.
The Southern Trust (TST) previously requested that the Westport Motor Hotel be permitted to install nine new pokies on the premises. Odds of success seemed high considering the hotel had no poker machines on site to begin with, and total number of machines in the area had recently fallen by six. However, the council was at odds on whether the proposal was worthy of approval.
Without enough support from the council, getting the request approved would be impossible, and in the end, it was decided the Westport lodge should not be allowed to install any poker machines.
Had the TSTs application bee approved, the Westport Motor Hotel would have become the sixth licensed pokies facility in the city, bringing the total number of poker machines to 81. As it is, there are only five locations where patrons can spin the reels on a grand total of 72 machines.
Working against the hotel’s owner—who, according to the TST, had recently made a significant investment in the property and was hoping to increase its level of entrainment by adding a few gambling attractions—was the fact that the application received nine submitters. Only one of them was in favor of the proposal, while the remaining eight opposed the installation of any new pokies in Westport.
Campbell Wilson, Operations Compliance Manager for TST, spoke at the council hearing, explaining to the assembly that the new pokies at Westport would, in effect, replace six poker machines that had been withdrawn from the Melbourne Hotel nearby. He beseeched the council to approve at least 6 poker machines, thereby keeping the numbers the same.
He went on to testify that there was no evidence to support the theory of opposition, which said more pokies would only serve to increase the rate of problem gambling in the area. Wilson said that, in contrast, the majority of the hotel’s clientele were travelers.
Furthermore, Wilson said the TST’s policy is the distribute 95% of pokies profit back into the local community, although he ended up retracting that statement as, in reality, only about 40% of the funds go to the community after the GST, TST, government and vendors take their share.
Each council member had their own opinion, some for, but most against, yet it was the words of Mayor Garry Howard that seemed to have the most influence. “If you are getting back 40 per cent and there’s a dollar going in, is that really helping the community?”
Expressing his own aversion to the pokies, the Mayor said, “Fundamentally, I feel it’s a mistake New Zealand ever having the machines in the country, and yet I’m a gambler.”
In the end, the council voted a resounding ‘Nay’ to nine new poker machines at the Westport hotel. When a motion was made to vote on six pokies, the vote failed 6 to 4. Moving again to vote on just four machines, the vote came in tied 5 to 5.
As per the laws of the district, a tie vote results in maintaining the status quo, which means no new pokies will be installed at the Westport Motor Hotel.