The entire SKYCITY Entertainment Group Ltd. (Sky City) and National government deal seems like it has been a $130m con to the New Zealand taxpaying public!
Right from the start, way back in February 2013, the Deputy Controller & Auditor General, Phillipa Smith, highlighted in her report to the Key Government a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and the steps taken by the Ministry of Economic Development. At the time Teflon John ducked and dived.
Remember the deal was, if Sky City built, oh and paid for, an international convention centre all they asked for were two concessions.
- A 35 year extension on their license. But under the Gambling Act 2003, any casino wishing to extend their license must produce an independently written report into the economic and social impacts of the extension on the community. They did not produce such a report, instead they used a predictive model created by Focal Research Consultants, a Canadian research group that specialises in social and marketing research pertaining to the gambling industry, which analyses loyalty data as a tool to identify players at risk from gambling harm. This was their “harm minimisation” solution. Window dressing that would have little or no impact on gambling harm. So the government contravened their own legislation.
- The government would allow 230 more “pokies” or Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM’s), 40 more gaming tables and, now this is the really clever move by SKYCITY Entertainment Group Ltd., 12 table games that can be automated with up to 20 terminals per table, or as I like to interpret it, 240 more EGM’s. So they get 470 more EGM’S and 40 gaming tables.
Now they are asking for the tax payer to give them $130 million but there is no mention of them decreasing any of the concessions.
Finally according to the latest DIA figures released for the last financial year there was an $808 million expenditure on pokies in Clubs and pubs in New Zealand and $509 million expenditure in casinos. Every year, under the often overlooked Gambling Act 2003, a Problem Gambling levy is collected from the four sectors of the gambling industry, Clubs and Pubs, Lotto, TAB and casinos. The levy is calculated every three years by the rate of player losses and presentations at gambling harm treatment providers. It averages out to approximately $18 million per year. This money is administered by the Ministry of Health and it is used to fund research, treatment provision and harm minimisation programmes. Let me stress this is NOT taxpayer money.
This government is now proposing to give $130 million dollars to one casino, that is more than eight times the money spent to help people harmed by problem gambling and most importantly, to keep our communities safe from gambling harm. Shame on you John Key, shame.
I am a consumer advisor for problem gambling and harm minimisation. I first gambled 20 years ago and it has been a journey of pain, joy and discovery. I am currently living a gamble free life. I was the first person in New Zealand to self exclude from a class four venue.
I am a member of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Problem Gambling and Harm Minimisation. I have spoken to, and hosted workshops, at previous international gambling conferences and I speak regularly to community groups in my hometown of Nelson.
I have spoken to various media over the years in response to problem gambling issues.
I facilitate a Problem Gambling Support Group in Nelson. From this group I authored a Problem Gamblers support group logbook which includes strategies for living a gamble free life.
I do all of this with no funding and on a purely voluntary basis because I am passionate about the harm that was visited on me by pokie machines.