The Government has held off publishing the advice it received about the social and financial costs of problem gambling associated with the new SkyCity convention centre deal.
This morning, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce confirmed the Government and SkyCity Entertainment Group have signed a deal to build a $402 million international-standard convention centre in Auckland in exchange for more gaming tables and pokie machines.
Under the agreement, SkyCity will meet the full project costs of the convention centre in return for an additional 230 pokie machines on the casino floor, an additional 40 gaming tables, and a further 12 gaming tables that can be substituted for automated table game player stations (but not pokie machines).
Although the Government says the deal is at no cost to the tax payer, Andree Froude from the Problem Gambling Foundation disagrees.
"If we see more pokie machines we're going to see more problems with gambling that we're going to have to pay for as taxpayers," she told onenews.co.nz
The foundation has also raised concerns about how the agreement will go through parliament.
"We're very concerned as to whether people will actually have a chance to have their say.
"We know from the submissions received from the Auckland Council Gambling Policy Review that's currently taking place, that 99% of submitters don't want pokies at all for Auckland."
And the Salvation Army say those behind the SkyCity Convention Centre have failed to take the damage to communities and families into their cost benefit analysis.
They say they are disappointed that little weight has been given to the social impact of increasing the number of pokie machines and gambling tables at SkyCity Casino.
"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," said Salvation Army social policy spokesman Major Campbell Roberts.
The New Zealand stock exchange responded positively to the announcement as SKYCITY Entertainment Group Limited shares rose by 15 cents sitting at $4.55 per share.
SkyCity's 'royal flush'
The Government dealt SkyCity a "royal flush" in terms of this morning's deal, said the Green Party.
They say the government has handed a list of gambling concessions to the casino they could never have dreamed of in exchange for a convention centre for Auckland.
"SkyCity will be rubbing their hands with glee over the deal because they will have been given more than they could ever expected in the pokies for convention centre deal," said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.
Up to 17% of pokie machines and automatic table games (in restricted areas only) will be able to accept banknotes of denominations greater than $20, and SkyCity will be allowed to introduce TITO and card-based cashless gaming technology on all pokie machines and automatic table games at Auckland casino.
SkyCity's Auckland casino licence, which is due to expire in 2021, will also be extended out to 30 June 2048, and an amendment made to cover all of SkyCity's properties in Federal Street.
Joyce said the projected cost is made up of $315 million in construction and fit-out costs, and $87 million in land costs.
Construction is expected to begin in 2014 with the facility to be open in 2017.
SkyCity will operate the convention centre for at least 35 years.
The Government said SkyCity needed some certainty about what would happen if any of those concessions were changed, and for that reason, the agreement says that if the regulatory concessions are changed before the 35 year period is up, SkyCity will be compensated by the Government under the agreement.
An independent assessment by financial advisory firm KordaMentha has described the value of the concessions made to SkyCity in exchange for the construction and operation of the International Convention Centre as "reasonable for both parties".
Legislation will be required to approve the final agreement. The Government will have the right to approve the design of the centre.