'Too early' to assess SkyCity deal social impact

6:59 pm on 11 February 2016

SkyCity's deal with the government appears to be paying off for it - but, the Problem Gambling Foundation says, the deal's social impact is unclear.

Sky City Auckland.

SkyCity has agreed to build a international convention centre in Auckland in exchange for gambling concessions. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The company's first-half profit is up 30 percent to $71 million, driven by higher earnings from rich overseas gamblers and solid returns from its flagship casino in Auckland.

In 2013, the government gave the company permission to install more pokies and extended its operating licence in the city to 2048 in exchange for building an international convention centre.

More on the deal

Those concessions took effect in November last year and SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said early indications were that its Auckland operations had benefited from them.

"We had a record week for this property over that Christmas/New Year period and... certainly there's no doubt some of that was due to having more gaming product and having the other concessions rolled out."

About 70 percent of the extra gaming product under the deal was now in place, he said.

Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey speaks with RNZ's John Campbell about SkyCity's half-year profit increase on 11 February 2016.

Mr Ramsey, left, with RNZ's John Campbell Photo: RNZ / Checkpoint

Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said it was too early to tell whether the extra machines had increased problem gambling.

"I think it is a bit too early - we know that there's a relationship between accessibility and number of machines and the problems and results - but right now I think it's too early to say."

He said the impact of the licence extension, which would normally have required a submission process, was also unclear.

"We would have had some independent data and assessment about what the impact was, because we know there is a cost from gambling, through problem gambling that affects large chunks of Auckland, and particularly poorer parts of Auckland, but we've got no independent assessment of what that is."

SkyCity has four casinos in New Zealand - Auckland, Hamilton and two in Queenstown - and establishments in Adelaide and Darwin.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs