by Denise Roche
The agreement between the Government and SkyCity for the build of an international convention centre is a deeply dodgy deal.
I’m launching a campaign called Gambling Laws – Not For Sale at which has an online petition and a hard-copy petition asking the Government to oppose any legislation to relax the existing gambling laws and calls for a proper inquiry into the economic benefits and social harm costs of the deal.
The convention centre deal includes an extension to the casino’s licence for 35 years, allows for an additional 230 pokie machines and extra gambling tables and, worryingly, allows a law change to enable cashless gambling with a Ticket In Ticket Out system which is a favourite of international money launderers.
The agreement also contains a compensation clause that binds future governments to compensating SkyCity if they change the law to reduce gambling harm and it affects the casino’s profits.
This week we held a successful community leaders forum where we invited organisations that deal with the social harm of gambling to comment about the deal. We were hosted by the Reverand Dr Lynne Frith at the Pitt Street Methodist church and other speakers included Major Campbell Roberts from the social policy unit of the Salvation Army; Reverend Mua Strickland-Pua a Presbytarian minister and city youth worker, Ants Hawke of Ngāti Whātua from Hapai Te Hau Ora, Councillor Richard Northey giving an overview of the law and Green party member and former member of the government’s Expert Advisory Committee on Gambling. All were united in their message that the casino deal is a dirty deal and should not proceed.
The compensation aspect of the deal is a worrying one. SkyCity have done very well in their share prices as a result of the announcement. SkyCity also want to trap future governments into compensating SkyCity if the Greens change the law to minimise gambling harm. I consider SkyCity’s claims to be unfair and I’d hazard unconstitutional.
Gambling is already predicted to increase so SkyCity will no doubt be making profits without the convention centre deal.
However I doubt that the three year gambling strategy, that is funded by the gambling levy placed on all modes of gambling, has factored in the increased harm of the casino’s proposed extra 230 pokies.
The convention centre is not a free deal. We will all cover the costs of social harm through our taxes while the shareholders in the casino take their profits offshore.