The Government says it is difficult to estimate the social costs of the SkyCity convention centre deal but is nevertheless confident they will be outweighed by the benefits it brings.

In a recent briefing paper to his Cabinet colleagues, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says gambling law concessions including allowing SkyCity to increase gaming machine numbers "might lead to an increase in the number of people seeking help for problem gambling''.

But while Mr Joyce has received official advice on the issue, he told his colleagues, ``It is difficult to quantify the potential size of any such increase or its consequences, which could include financial costs, effects on employment, crime, personal and family impacts, and treatment costs for persons affected''.

The potential for increased harm had been considered during negotiations with SkyCity over the $402 million convention centre and the casino operator had agreed to put in place additional harm minimisation measures.


Mr Joyce said that would minimise potential problem gambling and money laundering opportunities arising from the additional gambling facilities.

"It is my view that that the potential costs of the concessions are outweighed by the benefits to New Zealand of gaining an international-standard convention centre``Mr Joyce says in the cabinet paper released to Radio New Zealand.

The Government is close to concluding a final agreement with SkyCity after signing an initial heads of agreement last month.

But while the Government has long touted the economic benefits of the deal and released detailed financial analysis with the heads of agreement, it has so far withheld official advice on the social costs, citing commercial sensitivity.

"We'll release all the information once the final agreement been done'', Mr Joyce told reporters today.

He denied that holding back information on social costs until the deal was finalised was a political strategy to give the public less time to consider the costs than they had to consider the benefits.

"There will be piece of legislation, there will be an agreement and there will be time for it to go through the select committee process so everything will have the opportunity to be debated.''

The Government and SkyCity are aiming to conclude the deal by Sunday.