Was SkyCity Involved in New Immigration Deal?

SkyCity has come under fire yet again, fighting off criticism from local residents over its potential role in a new immigration deal. This week, Immigration New Zealand announced its new deal with China Southern Airlines, which would allow flyers expedited visa processing when visiting the New Zealand. Last year, SkyCity mentioned its own involvement in a similar deal, causing local residents to wonder if the casino operator had any sort of influence on Immigration New Zealand.

According to reports, SkyCity had been pushing for a deal with China Southern Airlines for over a year. The casino operator wanted to increase the number of high rollers that would have access to its various gambling venues by making it easier for players to enter the country. Now that Immigration New Zealand has launched its own deal with China Southern Airlines, citizens are concerned that the government is in the pocket of SkyCity.

This news comes shortly after the announcement that government has relaxed gambling laws to allow for SkyCity to install up to 500 new poker machines. In return, the casino operator would build Auckland’s new convention centre, a project which will cost $350 million. With these types of deals taking place, residents wonder if SkyCity has an unfair influence on the local government.

Both SkyCity and Immigration New Zealand have denied claims that they worked together on the new China Southern Airlines deal. However, opposition is still strong, as politicians and residents worry that the deal would welcome a potential increase in casino-related crime.

Hearing Highlights Concerns of Harm Reduction Bill

New Zealand’s Harm Reduction Bill has gained quite a lot of support thus far – but there were always going to be some concerns. Many of these issues were expressed at a recent hearing for the bill, as organizations stepped forward to voice their concerns.

The Harm Reduction Bill provides local city councils across New Zealand with the ability to limit the number of poker machines that exist in a particular jurisdiction. The bill also aims to increase the amount of money that each poker machine donates to charity, which has been a significant source of the bill’s support thus far.

At the hearing, however, many organizations expressed some concerns about the potential funding scheme. While they support the fact that local councils can limit the number of poker machines, they are wary of the same councils allocating funds. Some organizations are worried that their funding will be significantly cut should this become a provision of the Harm Reduction Bill in New Zealand.

So, it seems as though it is back to the drawing board for the commission. Another hearing will be held later in the year to determine the effectiveness of the amendments.

SkyCity Fined For Scandal

Earlier this year, SkyCity was involved in a scandal that saw its managing Director Sid Vaikunta let go. Months later, the casino operator is still feeling the effects of the scandal, as it has recently been fined over $100 000 for failing to inform the local gaming authority.

At the beginning of the year, Sid Vaikunta was accused of sexually harassing his employees. He was suspended and threatened with the loss of his job. In February, he was fired. In the months leading up to the suspension and sacking, the casino operator failed to inform the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

According to the authority, this was a breach of the Casino Control Act. Whenever a casino executive is accused of wrong doing the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority must be notified so that it can conduct an investigation. Sky City’s actions interfered with the process.

The casino operator has apologized for the transgression, stating that it was unaware it had acted unlawfully. Moving forward, SkyCity will maintain transparency and an open relationship with the local gaming authority.

Auckland Council Supports Gambling Reforms

The new Harm Reduction Bill is gaining a great deal of backing across New Zealand. The Auckland Council has recently expressed its support for the legislation, which would give local city councillors the right to control the number of poker machines within their jurisdictions.

The main provision of the bill is to allow city councillors to limit the number of poker machines in their areas. Once they have decided to remove any machines, the machines must be removed within 12 months of the decision. This single provision makes New Zealand’s Harm Reduction Bill far more effective than any gambling reform that has taken place in Australia.

The bill also gives councils the power to determine whether or not a venue is suitable for Class 4 Gaming. This would mean that all staff will have be trained in responsible gambling practices, placing some responsibility on pub and club owners when it comes to problem gambling in New Zealand.

“This would give us more powers to influence and take action where we feel the presence of one of these venues is likely to cause severe harm to a particular community, or the location is unsuitable,” says Councillor George Wood.

The Harm Reduction Bill will also allow for the arrangement of a system to allocate gaming funds to organizations. This means that gaming trusts will no longer be responsible for doing so, eliminating any bias.

Charities Commission’s Gambling Stance Deemed Inappropriate

Currently, the New Zealand government is considering passing a law that would reduce the number of poker machines in certain areas. Many groups are opposed to the idea, and some have even taken action against the legislation – however, one organization has been reprimanded for its actions regarding potential gambling law.

The CEO of the Charities Commission sent out an email to various charities requesting that they adopt an anti-gambling reform stance. Since charities depend on poker machine revenue for funding, they would be the first to lose out if the law were passed. The Charities Commission does not want to see that happen and has attempted to launch a campaign against the proposed legislation. According to the Department of Internal Affairs, however, the email was deemed inappropriate, and the Charities Commission will have to retract the email.

“The Chief Executive and the Minister responsible for the Commission need to step up to the plate and admit that this circulation of material is totally inappropriate”, says Ruth Dyson of the Department of Internal Affairs.

While charities are likely to lose out on funding, the Charities Commission is meant to be an independent entity. It is also wrong for the organization to adopt a pro-gambling stance for its own personal, financial gain.

Community Groups Will Not Lose Funding As A Result of Harm Reduction Bill

According to MP Te Ururoa Flavell, local charities and community groups do not have anything to worry about when it comes to the new harm reduction bill that could see many poker machines across New Zealand removed. He assures them that they will not lose funding but rather are likely to see an increase.

The harm reduction bill would give city councillors the power to reduce the number of poker machines in their jurisdictions. Unlike sinking lid policies, the poker machines would have to be removed within 12 months.

Since poker machines generate a large portion of funding of local charities and community groups, many local groups have become worried that the bill will jeopardize their funding. However, Flavell states that this is not likely to happen. Instead, he claims that the bill will allow for more funding to be generated for charities and not-for-profit organizations.

As it stands, only a small portion (less than 20%) is donated from poker machine profits to local charities. Under the new legislation, the community could see up to 80% of poker machines’ profits as local funding.

Christchurch Pubs Celebrate Being Pokie-Free

When it comes to entertainment in New Zealand, pokies have become a popular form of leisure entertainment and many clubs and pubs depend on the income generated by the machines to cover their operating costs. However, several venues across Christchurch have refused to host pokies as part of a new campaign called ‘Proud to be Pokies-Free’.

Anglican Life and the Problem Gambling Foundation have joined forces to launch the campaign, which celebrates venues that refuse to host pokies. They want to show pub owners that they can be successful without poker machines, and many operators have already jumped on board with the campaign.

“We can rebuild our city without pokie machines,” said National Public Health Manager Tony Milne.

The campaign seems to be especially crucial in a city like Christchurch, which has the chance to rebuild itself. Now is the ideal time to start over, without a dependence on pokies – and Proud to be Pokies-Free aims to make that happen.

Currently, there are just five clubs across Christchurch which support the cause. However, it is likely that more will hop on board in the future.

New Sky City Pokies to Pay Off Convention Centre

While $350 million is a lot of money for one company to spend on the construction of a new convention centre, Sky City does not seem very worried at all. While it seemed liked the casino operator was getting the short end of the deal by offering to build the new centre, Sky City will actually benefit the most from the deal.

Goldman Sachs has recently conducted a report outlining the exact cost of the new poker machines in Sky City Auckland. According to the company’s calculations, the machines will bring in at least $143 000 each year, providing an overall profit of $350 million by 2017. It will only take Sky City 5 years to pay off the cost of the new convention centre, so the deal certainly works out in the casino’s favour.

Unfortunately, the general public is not as pleased about the news. Most citizens are worried that the deal will make Auckland look as though it is obsessed with money, rather than caring about the well-being of its citizens. However, city councillors do not seem overly concerned with this image perception and are very dedicated to the deal with Sky City.