6 Sep 2013

MPs told pokies more dangerous in casinos

5:46 am on 6 September 2013

The Problem Gambling Foundation has told MPs considering a bill on the Sky City deal that pokie machines are more dangerous in casinos than in other places.

Parliament's Commerce Select Committee has been considering the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill. If enacted, it will give Sky City 230 extra gaming machines, up to 52 more gaming tables and a licence extension to 2048 in exchange for building a convention centre in Auckland.

Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said gamblers were more at risk with casino pokies because casinos were designed to capture and keep players at a machine.

"In Sky City each machine takes on average, by our calculation, $141,000 per annum net. That is the losses on a machine. That is double the highest level of take, generally speaking, in a pub or club environment."

Mr Ramsey said the Gambling Act required reviews of casinos including an independent examination of its costs and benefits. He believed if such a review was held it would show casinos had a net cost.

Mr Ramsey said the host responsibility rules for Sky City would not make any improvement on what was being done now.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden told the committee the $400 million convention centre - which will be able to host 3500 people - would allow New Zealand to tap into a lucrative tourism market.

"They say that gives us a kicker of $49 or $50 million a year to GDP year after year after year. That's important. It will provide jobs; it will provide benefits spreading into the community because of the flow of the tourism dollar."

Family First told MPs the Sky City deal is fiscally good but morally bankrupt.

Bob McCoskrie of Family First told MPs that there may be some financial benefits from getting the convention centre built, but they have to be weighed up against the social harm of more gambling activity.

Mr McCoskrie said there was a direct link between problem gambling and domestic violence, child abuse and crime and extra gaming machines would increase the risk of harm.

He said there were also problems - which were identified by the Auditor-General's office - in how the deal between the Government and Sky City was made.

"There's huge concerns around it but at the end of the day it may be fiscally good but it's morally bankrupt."