New Zealand’s plan for a $350 million convention centre has fallen on shaky ground after gambling opponents vowed to challenge the development because of its dependence on pokie funding.
In a bid to draw more business and events to the region, the New Zealand government last year entered negotiations with SkyCity casino to build a 3500 seat International Convention Centre in the heart of Auckland. Early estimates suggest the centre would inject $85.4 million to the country’s economy each year from an estimated 33,000 annual delegates.
However, one of the conditions of SkyCity’s funding is the addition of up to 500 new poker machines – which is estimated to make up to $42 million a year for the casino.
New Zealand’s Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey has warned that increasing the number of poker machines would have severe consequences by promoting gambling within the community.
“A recent study has found that there is an increase of problem gambling by nearly one new person per each new machine and we know that every problem gambler impacts between seven and 17 other people,” he said. “We are very concerned about the implications of this.”
NZ Labour leader David Shearer joined Ramsey in his opposition, stressing that society’s problem gamblers should not have to foot the bill for the new development.
Concerned about the latest stall, Convention and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) chief executive Allan Trotter stressed that a new convention centre was vital to secure future meetings and events.
Without it, New Zealand would not be able to compete with Asia and Australia, he said, adding that NZ was “critically” short of medium-sized convention facilities after last year’s quake.
“With the effective destruction of the Christchurch Convention Centre, which used to handle more than 25% of all conventions of 250 and over, the need for the ICC becomes even more compelling,” he told The Nibbler.
If plans for the convention centre are dashed, Trotter said it was “unlikely” the New Zealand government would fund the construction of a separate facility, given the current economic climate.
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