Families, friends may pay price
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.