SkyCity’s $402m buys Gambling Act, 2003?
16/05/2013-A prominent Pacific community leader agreed with Labour leader David Shearer that SkyCity bought the Gambling Act for $402 million.
“John Key is selling off our future,” Mr Shearer said in a statement.
“He is selling our assets and now he’s trading our laws for pokie machines.”
Ms Pesio Siitia, the manager for the Problem Gambling Foundation’s Pacific Unit, Mapu Maia, is saddened by the SkyCity deal.
“We are very proud of our gambling legislation here in New Zealand. On the global stage, we are one of the few countries that has a gambling legislation,” she said.
“We are at the forefront of problem gambling services and problem gambling clinical services in the world. So it is disheartening to see that our government has chosen to compromise the Gambling Act, 2003 for this convention centre.”
It is why when the deal was announced earlier this week, Ms Siitia has been at the forefront of a Pacific movement aimed to stop the necessary amendments to the legislation for the final agreement to come into force.
Her voice adds to those of opposition parties and problem gambling advocates who have slammed the deal concerned that the extra 230 pokie machines and 52 gaming tables will see a rise in the social harm caused by problem gambling.
The Heads of Agreement that was signed on Monday, 13 May, is a legally binding document that settles the key principles on which a full agreement will be based. SkyCity and the Government are required to complete a full agreement, based on the Heads of Agreement, by 14 June 2013. Legislation will be required to give effect to the final agreement.
However, if no final agreement is reached, the Heads of Agreement would lapse, and the Government and SkyCity would no longer be bound by commitments included in the Heads of Agreement.
Ms Siitia said the Pacific community should put pressure on its Pacific members of parliament in the National Party, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Alfred Ngaro.
“For the Pacific we need to put pressure on Peseta and Alfred to stop this deal by voting against amending the legislation,” she said.
She urges the two National MPs to listen to the voice of the Pacific and Auckland community.
A new poll result presented on Tuesday this week to Auckland Council’s gambling policy review hearings showed 74.8 per cent said there were too many pokies in Auckland. Just 0.4 per cent said there were not enough.
Mrs Siitia said there are two major concerns the two MPs need to fully consider before casting their votes.
First is the vulnerability of Pacific peoples to gambling.
Māori and Pacific adults are between 3.5 and 4 times more likely than adults in the total population to be problem gamblers. It’s because these populations are more concentrated in higher decile areas (8-10) where there are more pokie machines.
“For the Pacific 10 to 15 others are affected by a single problem gambler. And they are six times more likely to be affected than any other group to be at risk,” she said.
“Problem gambling ripples and filters into every aspect of New Zealand life. Businesses lose money, it filters through as fraud, as crime, into mental and public health, poverty, child neglect, violence. The social cost of Problem Gambling far outstrips the economic benefits from the convention centre. I would say the cost would be four to five times what the economic benefits would be.”
Secondly, SkyCity’s approach to its “corporate responsibility is quite bad,” said Ms Siitia.
“We have evidence of them letting back into the casino people who have been banned so we know their host responsibility is not up to scratch,” she said.
“And who will be monitoring them to ensure they adhere to their host responsibility measures because we know that their track record so far has been dismal?”
But Peseta Lotu-Iiga has jumped to the defence of the government’s SkyCity deal.
“I understand the issue around problem gambling,” he told the New Zealand Pacific. “But overall, the number of pokie machines have declined over the four and a half years National has been in government. We know there are issues in our society around problem gambling but those are not isolated to the casino, they exist right across the country whether in South, West or Central Auckland.”
Peseta confirmed he will vote to support the amendments to the Gambling Act when it is tabled in parliament.
He said the overriding factor for his support is that the SkyCity deal will bring jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders, especially Pacific people.
It is estimated that 1,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase from 2014 to 2017. After the construction phase, 800 permanent jobs will be needed once the place is up and running. And that is different to the expected $90million annual revenue it brings into New Zealand.
“Many of the service workers in the restaurant, casino and hotel, and in the convention centre, are Pacific people. It means those jobs will give those Pacific people income, the ability to look after their families, their communities, that’s a huge benefit of this convention centre.”
At the end of the day this is about jobs and opportunities for Pasifika said Peseta.
“It’s job creation and economic growth. And it is one project where the tax payer does not have to pay a single dollar yet ends up with a world class facility he added.
But NZ First MP Leau Asenati Lole-Taylor said she’s “perplexed as to why the government insists on a new convention centre.
“There are two major convention centres Vector Arena in Auckland’s C.B.D., and the Telstra Centre in Manukau; which are significantly underutilised. Why burden tax-payers and add to the negative social impacts that gambling has on the wider community?”
She is very concerned about the help that will be needed to tackle the problems families face regarding gambling addictions.
A point the Salvation Army’s social policy spokesman Major Campbell Roberts agreed with.
“It would appear to be particularly irresponsible when we know every problem gambler impacts between seven, and 17 other people and the great cost to taxpayers and businesses to clean up the fallout.”
However, Major Roberts agreed that Auckland needs an international-scale convention centre to boost tourism and business, but making it conditional on increasing gambling opportunity is incongruous and irresponsible.
“A convention centre is supposed to be a place of learning and community-building but unfortunately this centre will have a legacy of harm to individuals, families and communities,” he said.
The SkyCity Convention Centre will cater for 3500 conference delegates.
It will cost of $402 million
Construction start in 2014 with opening in 2017.
SkyCity will meet the full project – in return for the following:
- An extension of licence, due to expire in 2021, to 30 June 2048, and an amendment to cover all of SkyCity’s properties in Federal Street
- An additional 230 “pokie machines” on the casino floor
- An additional 40 gaming tables
- A further 12 gaming tables that can be substituted for automated table game player stations (but not “pokie” machines)
- Up to 17 per cent of pokie machines and automatic table games (in restricted areas only) being able to accept banknotes of denominations greater than $20
- Introducing TITO and card-based cashless gaming technology on all pokie machines and automatic table games at Auckland casino.
- SkyCity will operate the convention centre for at least 35 years.