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Council rejects proposal against SkyCity deal

An artist's impression of the proposed 3500-seat convention centre for Auckland. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the proposed 3500-seat convention centre for Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says he is concerned with the lack of detail around the Government's planned convention centre deal with SkyCity despite voting down a motion to oppose it.

The deal would involve SkyCity funding a $350 million national convention centre in the city in exchange for up to 500 more pokie machines at its Auckland casino.

The Government is continuing negotiations with the company but current laws would have to be changed to allow the extra machines.

Auckland councillors today voted 12-9 against supporting a motion that the council did not support legislation that would allow SkyCity to increase gambling opportunities in return for the national convention centre.

Mr Brown, who was among those who voted against the motion, today said the Government's proposed deal needed more detail.

"The Government needs to clearly explain as soon as possible what is being proposed so it can be properly assessed,'' he said.

"I am very concerned about the negative impacts of problem gambling. If the Government decides to go ahead with the SkyCity proposal, I would expect it to include strong measures to minimise harm.''

Mr Brown suggested a range of options that could be included in any proposed deal.

They included harm minimisation officers responsible for identifying problem gamblers and intervening; pre-paid gambling cards with daily and weekly spending limits; on-screen harm minimisation messages that would be displayed before pokie machines could be activated; and a system that prevented medium to large prizes from being reinvested into pokie machines.

"I would expect these measures to form part of Auckland Council's final submission if the government proposes any legislative change.''

Mr Brown said he was an advocate of strong harm minimisation measures, such as a sinking lid policy for pokie machines in Manukau.

"However, the Government can simply legislate for more so we need reduce the harm of any proposal that is eventually put forward.''

Mr Brown said he was also concerned about the amount of gambling money that went back into community initiatives, and that needed to be looked at.

The convention centre was an important development for Auckland because it would bring in more jobs and economic development, but the lack of detail was not doing the cause any good, he said.

- APNZ

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