13 Nov 2013

Problem gambling group criticises SkyCity deal

6:11 am on 13 November 2013

Opponents of the Government's SkyCity convention centre deal say they're gravely concerned about the effect on Auckland now that legislation cementing the agreement has been passed.

The deal allows SkyCity to expand its gaming operations in return for building the $402 million complex in Auckland. SkyCity will have its Auckland casino licence extended until 2048 and can operate 230 extra gaming machines and 52 more gaming tables.

The New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill which puts the agreement in place was passed in a conscience vote of 61 to 59 on Tuesday. The Labour and Green parties voted against the bill.

SkyCity says the extra gambling concessions won't come into effect until it signs a building contract, probably in September 2014. The convention centre is planned to be built by 2017.

Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey says research shows that each additional gaming machine creates nearly one new problem gambler.

Mr Ramsey says measures in the legislation, such as voluntary gambling limits, will not be effective.

"We've had a number of what I'd call wallpaper statements, that's things that look good but nothing that's going to address the harm that these additional machines and that automated gaming tables are going to cause for us."

Auckland city councillor George Wood says the council remains worried about the deal and he hopes SkyCity does all it can to monitor problem gambling.

The Government argues any potential increase in problem gambling is outweighed by the economic benefits of the convention centre.

Labour and the Greens have signalled their intention to roll back the concessions, if elected to power next year.