9 Jul 2013

SkyCity deal 'will likely worsen' problem gambling

2:41 pm on 9 July 2013

New documents suggest the Government's deal with SkyCity to allow it more gaming machines and tables could cause more problem gambling - but overall, they say, the risks are outweighed by the economic benefits of the deal.

Under the agreement signed last Friday, SkyCity will design and build a $402 million convention centre and, in return, will be able to operate another 230 machines and 40 tables.

The papers show officials warned the Government the deal would likely lead to an increase in problem gambling. They estimate that, because there will be more opportunities to gamble, more than 4700 people might be at least partly affected by the machines and another 3500 by the tables.

SkyCity will also be able to extend cashless gaming technology, which the papers say could increase the risk of money laundering.

Overall, the documents say the risks are ultimately outweighed by the economic benefits; but Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says they prove the Government is prepared to trade off people's lives on the chance of an economic benefit.

Ms Turei says it's a dirty deal. "We're going to see an increase in marriage breakdowns and family breakdowns, in theft and fraud from businesses, and increased risk of suicie as a result of this deal.

Now John Key might think that's a price worth paying, but the Green Party does not."

The Government says it is an open question whether there will be an increase in social harm. Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says that because the overall number of gaming machines in the country is falling, the increase at SkyCity will quickly be cancelled out.

An artist's impression of the convention centre.

An artist's impression of the convention centre. Photo: SUPPLIED