When Prime Minister John Key initially began negotiating the terms of the SkyCity convention centre deal, 500 new pokies were on the table. When the final details of the deal were announced, that number was halved and only 230 new pokies would be permitted at the casino.
While this may seem to appease responsible gambling advocates, The Greens are concerned that this is simply to detract from the fact that the 40 new table games could present even more harm. Of the 40 new pokies, 12 will be automated, electronic games. 20 people will be able to play at each electronic table, providing gambling opportunities for 240 more players.
So, in the end, SkyCity has essentially received the equivalent of 500 new poker machines. The Greens have recently issued a press release, urging local residents to think a little bit harder about the terms of the deal. According to the political party, the lower number of poker machines is offset by the new automated electronic gaming tables.
While it was said that the deal would not contribute to a rise in problem gambling rates, offering residents more gambling opportunities is quite harmful. “The lower number of pokies is actually a smokescreen for the gaming tables that will lead to a whole new set of negative addiction problems,” says Denise Roche, a spokesperson for The Greens.
“Not only is the deal between SkyCity and the Government an unconstitutional attempt to block future Governments from regulating gaming for the next 35 years – it now turns out that it is far worse for problem gambling than initially presented. It seems as though the local government is working hard to prevent local residents from truly understanding how severely the new deal will affect problem gambling rates.
While local politicians are pushing for a sinking lid policy, it seems counterproductive that John Key would continue to push for more gambling opportunities at the country’s biggest casino.