A controversial deal between SkyCity and New Zealand’s National-led government continues to provoke debate across the country. Under the deal, SkyCity will be allowed to increase the number of poker machines and gaming tables at its casino in Auckland, as well as receiving a 35-year extension of its gambling licence, in exchange for the building of a NZD$402 million convention centre in the city.
SkyCity would be permitted to add 230 pokies, 240 automated player stations and 40 new gaming tables to the Auckland Casino as a quid pro quo for its funding of the new convention centre. Critics say that this is in fact equivalent to a whole new casino being built in New Zealand and the deal would mean that 49.9% of the country’s pokies, and 46% of its gaming tables, would be located at Auckland SkyCity. The move has been objected to the by the minority opposition Labour party, which has pledged to undo the deal should it come to power. Objections have also been raised by the Green party, which has released its own alternative policy, which would see casinos no longer able to offer players free car parking, cheap drinks and other incentives if they are elected to power. In addition, they are also seeking the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment cards, a policy which failed spectacularly to make it onto the statute books in Australia.
Under this scheme, anyone playing a pokie machine would need to set a limit as to how many hours a day or week they could play, as well as establishing a maximum they would spend. If a player attempted to exceed these limits, the machine they were playing would automatically shut down. Pre-commitment cards had originally been part of a gambling bill introduced by the Maori Party which has passed into law, although this particular measure did not survive the committee stage.
As part of the launch of their policy, the Green party erected a ‘cardboard casino’ in the grounds of the Parliament, designed to represent physically the number of new pokies and gaming tables that would be added to the Auckland Casino under the convention center deal.
Prime Minister John Key has dismissed the Greens’ policy as “not practical”, while Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has said Labour’s approach of reneging on a deal signed in good faith would see investment in the New Zealand economy grind to a halt.
This legislation would not apply to online casinos, where players would continue to enjoy their current freedoms.
To get a good idea of the Sky city Casino in Auckland, watch the following video: