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Petition calling for end to SkyCity deal launched

Published: 8:56AM Tuesday May 14, 2013 Source: ONE News

A petition calling for the House of Representatives to reject the Government's deal with SkyCity has been launched by the Green Party today. 

SkyCity Entertainment Group yesterday finalised a deal with the Government to build a $402 million convention centre in exchange for increased gambling concessions.

The deal has been slammed by opposition parties and problem gambling advocates who are concerned the extra 230 pokie machines and 52 gaming tables will see a rise in the social harm caused by problem gambling. 

Green party co-leader Metiria Turei said they are launching a petition today calling on the deal to be rejected and for the Select Committee to call on the Government to release any forecasted social costs. 

"We know the Government has got advice about the future costs of the social harms but they're refusing to release it.

"They won't allow that information to be made public...we think it should be."

It is estimated the centre, which is set to be built on Auckland's Hobson Street, will draw some 33,000 additional conference delegates to New Zealand each year.

The convention centre is expected to add an estimated $90 million a year to the local economy, create 1000 jobs during construction and 800 jobs once the centre is running. 

Turei said the details released yesterday were worse than she expected and SkyCity were now in a position to decide gambling laws for the next 35 years.

They will legislate to repeal the changes if they come into power in 2014.

"The Skycity deal gives them compensation for any legislation that will affect their profits for the next 35 years so we don't believe that can be at all justified."

Ticket-in, ticket-out

The SkyCity deal paves the way for New Zealand's first ticket-in, ticket-out gambling system.

The controversial system allows gamblers to buy a barcoded slip of paper which can be used to play the pokie machines.  The slip can then be redeemed for money at an automated machine. 

Problem Gambling Foundation spokesperson Andree Froude is concerned the system will have implications for problem gamblers.

"It's cashless so it disassociates the gambler from what they are actually doing which is putting money into a pokie machine and let's not forget, it's revenue generating for the casino because they don't need staff to check on machines, handle cash."

Froude said the system is more likely to keep gamblers at a machine compared with cash based gambling. 

The system has also been linked with money laundering overseas.