A deal between SkyCity and the New Zealand government for the casino operator build a nz$350 million convention centre in exchange for a casino license extension has support of the Mayor and Prime Minister. The deal would see 500 additional slot machines introduced at SkyCity Casino Auckland.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Prime Minister John Key are conditionally supporting the deal that has faced major public criticism. There is a need for an international convention centre in New Zealand’s most populated region and this would be a quick solution.
SkyCity was selected as the preferred developer of the New Zealand International Convention Center in Auckland last year and would invest the full nz$350 million (us$287m) to construct the facility. The 3,500-capacity convention centre would boost tourism in the area and annually turnover an estimated nz$90 million.
Economic Development Minister Steve Joyce confirmed this week that the project would unlikely take place unless the additional machines were permitted at the casino.
But as the Prime Minister faces increased pressure over reports that gaming machines would produce as little as 2.5 percent taxable returns, compared to 37.5 percent from machines operating in clubs and pubs, he indicated there are “a range of ways” the casino can make contributions. He said that the extra machines would not attract more locals to the casino and instead be focused on targeting international visitors.
“The question is would a small number of pokie machines in addition at SkyCity materially make a difference to problem gambling, the answer is I don’t believe it will,” commented Key.
SkyCity Auckland Casino already houses 1,647 slots and 100 table games and there are mounting concerns in the community that additional slot machines would increase the effect of gambling addiction. The Problem Gambling Foundation says that every 10 new machines turn 8 players into problem gamblers.
Graeme Ramsey, CEO of the Foundation, said, “The harm from gambling is all about pokie machines. For over 70 percent of people who come to us, it’s about pokies.”
But Prime Minister John Key claims extra slots would not increase gambling addiction and provide an additional source of government revenue. Mayor of Auckland Len Brown said, “What I would be looking at and what I looked at previously is harm minimisation, so if there is an extension as a part of any deal I would be very concerned to ensure that we did everything we could to minimise harm.”
In order for a deal to take place, amendments need to be applied to current gambling legislation. Under the country’s 2003 Gambling Act, an increase in the number of gaming machines is only allowed if off-set with a reduction of tables.
The government has met SkyCity management on several occasions to negotiate the number of extra machines that would be allowed in an amendment made to existing legislation. The final number was no more than 500.
SkyCity Casino Management is a wholly owned subsidiary of SkyCity Entertainment Group and holds a gaming license to operate a casino anywhere in New Zealand. The casino company operates casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown in New Zealand and in Adelaide and Darwin in Australia, alongside a range of leading restaurants, bars, hotels and convention centres.
SkyCity – Website: www.SkyCity.co.nz
NZ Gambling Commission – Website: www.GamblingCommission.govt.nz
NZ Problem Gambling Foundation – Website: www.PGFNZ.org.nz