New Harm Minimisation Suggestions from The Greens

As Sky City and Prime Minister John Key continue to finalize the terms of their convention centre deal, responsible gambling advocates are becoming increasingly concerned about its effect on problem gambling rates. To help prevent a rise in problem gambling spending, The Greens have proposed some harm minimisation measures for SkyCity.

“The Green Party intends to implement sensible and pragmatic measures that reassert the role of public health as the primary driver of gambling regulation, rather than economic development and convention centres,” says Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei.

One of the proposed measures is the introduction of pre-commitment cards. Since there will be 230 new pokies at the casino, The Greens believe that pre-commitment cards would help poker machine players limit their spending. Players can set limits before they begin playing, and they will receive regular updates on their spending before being locked out once they have exceeded their budgets.

The Greens are confident that this measure would be effective but Mr Key is not convinced. He has spoken out against pre-commitment cards, starting that the measure would discourage players from visiting the casino altogether. There will certainly be a fierce debate on the issue, as we are certain that The Greens will not give up easily.

Greens To Stage Protest of SkyCity Deal

It is no secret that The Greens are opposed to the SkyCity convention centre deal. For months, the political party has argued that the deal is not only harmful to the local community but also that it was carried out in an unethical manner. This week, they will stage a protest of the deal by building a cardboard casino in Aotea Square.

From 7am to 6pm on Monday, October 14th, a life-sized casino made of cardboard will be located in the square. It will consist of 510 pokies, the total number of games that will exist in SkyCity Auckland if the convention centre deal is passed. The Greens encourage residents to visit the casino and write a message on the cardboard voicing their concerns to the government.

The idea of the protest is to show residents the scale of the SkyCity’s potential expansion. The gambling operator will be receiving an additional 230 pokies, and The Greens argue that this is the size of the average casino.

“SkyCity gets a whole new casino without having to go through any of the regulatory process required in law to set up a new casino,” says Greens co-leader Metiria Turei. “We want to show New Zealanders the scale of what the Government has gifted to SkyCity”.

Sky City Convention Centre Bill Passes First Reading

Last week, SkyCity and Prime Minister John Key finalized their plans for the Auckland convention centre deal. The proposal was presented as a bill to the local senate, and passed its first reading – but not by very much.

The deal will see SkyCity build Auckland’s new convention centre, investing $402 million into the project. In return, the casino operator will receive an additional 230 poker machines for its Auckland location, a number of new table games and an extended gambling license.

Local residents have been sceptical of the deal since it was first revealed. The Greens and other political groups tried their hardest to lobby against the deal, but it was no use. The project’s negotiations continued and its legislation has passed its first read by a vote to 59 to 61.

SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison believes that the bill has not been well-received due to supposedly slanderous media attention. He claims that his company’s reputation is being tarnished, despite the economic benefits that the convention centre will bring into the community.

The bill will be presented to senate for a second time in November 2013.

Final Sky City Convention Centre Deal Angers Locals

Sky City and Premier John Key have finally come to a settlement with regards to the terms of their convention centre deal. In return for Sky City spending $402 million to build Auckland’s new convention centre, the casino operator will be granted permission to install nearly 300 new games and will have its license extended.

The deal will go ahead as planned, even though the Auditor General confirmed that the deal was not entirely fair to other bidders. After the Auditor General weighed in, local residents requested that the deal be abandoned – but neither party would be deterred. Now, they have settled on a final plan – and residents are still incensed.

Sky City will spend $315 million on the construction of the centre and $87 million on land costs. In return, the casino will receive 230 new pokies and 40 new table games. The casino’s license will also be extended from 2021 to 2042.

“Sky City has been given preferential treatment from whoa to go and the Government has even bent the immigration visa rules to deliver rich gamblers to the casino,” says Rt Hon Winston Peters. “We can see little good coming from this shabby, seedy, money grubbing deal”.

It is likely that residents will protest the deal. Kiwis are not at all impressed with the terms of the deal, and they will fight to ensure that it does not go forward.

Auditor General Clarifies SkyCity Report

This week, Auditor General Phillippa Smith came forward to offer some clarification about her report concerning the SkyCity convention centre deal. She initially reported that neither the casino operator nor the local government acted inappropriately – and Prime Minister John Key announced that the report vindicated the deal. Unfortunately for him, this was not the case.

The Auditor General’s assistance was requested by the Greens in 2012. The political party felt that the deal (which would see SkyCity build the $350 million convention centre in return for 500 new pokies) was not entirely above board, and Phillippa Smith was brought in to investigate the deal.

She determined that SkyCity had been given an unfair advantage, especially since the casino operator was the government’s last choice. However, the group was willing to pay for all of the construction costs for the convention centre, so the government worked with SkyCity to improve its proposal. Although John Key claims that these findings vindicate the deal, Smith states otherwise.

As such, The Greens and other political groups feel that the tender process should be repeated. Many other groups were interested in building the convention centre, and they feel that they should be given a fair chance to bid on the project.

Delay for SkyCity Convention Centre Report

Ever since Prime Minister John Key announced that he would allow SkyCity to install 500 new poker machines in return for building Auckland’s new convention centre, his planned has been criticized. Residents and politicians have taken up arms against the initiative, with The Greens requesting that an audit be performed before any decisions can be finalized – unfortunately, the process has not been simple thus far.

Firstly, the audit has taken twice as long than the average Auditor General investigation. The Office of the Auditor General has stated that most cases take up to 3 months to investigate; this case has taken twice as long, as the process has been more complex.

Now, the release of the report has been delayed by weeks. Originally, the audit was to be published before Christmas, giving residents a chance to give the investigation the attention it deserves. Now, the Auditor General has announced that the report will not be released until the new year – but The Greens are okay with it.

Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei believes that it is better for the report to take longer than anticipated than for the Office of the Auditor General to rush the publication. She hopes that the audit will shed some much-needed light on the nature of the SkyCity convention centre deal, providing answers to some of the many unanswered questions that members of the general public have posed.

Gamble Free Day Highlights Concerns About Sky City

Gamble Free Day took place yesterday in New Zealand and, in addition to raising awareness about problem gambling, the day also provided The Greens with the opportunity to raise concerns about Sky City’s new pokies deal. The political party argued that we have heard quite a lot about the financial end of the deal, but not very much about its social impacts, and The Greens would like to have more attention paid to this aspect.

“What we’ve heard is that pokie deals will pay for the convention centre, but it’s not taking into account the other costs that all of us have to pick up,” says Denise Roche of The Greens.

Ideally, The Greens would like the local government to conduct some research into the social effects of bringing up to 500 new poker machines into the country. With increased availability of the machines, the political party believes that problem gambling rates will also rise, and the local community needs to learn a bit more about the social end of the deal.

Gamble Free Day present the perfect platform for the announcement of these concerns. Now, the general public is aware of the potential harm of the deal, and they can spread the word.