Fam­i­lies, friends may pay price

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JOE DAW­SON

A world-class con­ven­tion cen­tre should be funded by those set to ben­e­fit from it rather than those strug­gling with gam­bling prob­lems, an op­po­nent of the gov­ern­ment’s deal with SkyCity says.

Maun­gakiekie-Ta­maki Lo­cal Board chair­man Simon Ran­dall ex­pressed his con­cerns about the na­ture of the deal to the Auck­land City Har­bour News a year ago and this week his feel­ings have not changed.

He says if a con­ven­tion cen­tre is such a good idea it should be funded by those who stand to ben­e­fit from it.

Prob­lem gam­blers are not in that group.

‘‘Cer­tainly I have se­ri­ous con­cerns about this,’’ Mr Ran­dall says.

‘‘When the min­is­ter talks about it be­ing at no cost to Auck­land he is wrong, it’s at a huge cost to the fam­i­lies and em­ploy­ers of prob­lem gam­blers.

‘‘I’m ab­so­lutely in favour of the con­ven­tion cen­tre but there are dif­fer­ent ways of fund­ing it. We build things all the time, it’s funded usu­ally by those who ben­e­fit.’’

In this case he says not only Auck­land but wider New Zealand stand to ben­e­fit from a world class con­ven­tion cen­tre.

‘‘There is an ar­gu­ment that cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment should get to­gether and fund it in the way we nor­mally fund things, through rates and bor­row­ing.

‘‘I just don’t think they un­der­stand the dam­age pok­ies can do. It’s still a mas­sive in­crease in pok­ies.’’

Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Steven Joyce says there is enough in the deal with SkyCity to mit­i­gate any harm from the ex­ten­sion of gam­bling fa­cil­i­ties.

The gov­ern­ment an­nounced on Mon­day it had signed a deal with SkyCity to build a $402 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional-stan­dard con­ven­tion cen­tre in Auck­land.

SkyCity will fully fund the devel­op­ment in re­turn for an ex­ten­sion of its casino li­cence out to 2048, an ex­tra 230 pok­ies and 40 gam­ing ta­bles, cash­less gam­ing and other con­ces­sions. The gov­ern­ment will ap­prove the de­sign.

Un­der the con­ven­tion cen­tre deal, SkyCity will be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion if there is reg­u­la­tory change which af­fects the busi­ness over the next 35 years.

Auck­land mayor Len Brown wel­comes the agree­ment but says he will need to be con­vinced that pro­posed mea­sures to min­imise prob­lem gam­bling are ro­bust.

Coun­cil of­fi­cials will study the finer points of the deal and re­port back to the gov­ern­ing body.

‘‘I wel­come progress in de­liv­er­ing a much-needed in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion fa­cil­ity for New Zealand – in par­tic­u­lar the jobs and eco­nomic ben­e­fits this will bring to Auck­land.

‘‘I’ve said con­sis­tently that I ex­pect any mea­sures to be ro­bust enough to en­sure an in­crease in the num­ber of gam­ing ma­chines doesn’t trans­late to fur­ther harm to our com­mu­nity.’’

Mr Joyce says to com­bat prob­lem gam­bling and money laun­der­ing SkyCity will put in place mea­sures in­clud­ing pre­dic­tive mod­el­ling to iden­tify play­ers at risk of gam­bling ad­dic­tion and will re­quire cus­tomers to pro­vide iden­ti­fi­ca­tion when they are gam­bling or col­lect­ing more than $500 un­der the cash­less gam­ing sys­tem.

The con­ven­tion cen­tre will cost $315m to build with an­other $87m to buy the land re­quired.

The con­ven­tion cen­tre will cater for 3500 del­e­gates at any one time and in­ject $90m an­nu­ally into the econ­omy, Mr Joyce says. It is due to open in 2017 and SkyCity will op­er­ate it for at least 35 years.

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