23 Apr 2012

PM defends negotiations with casino again

10:18 pm on 23 April 2012

The Prime Minister has again defended the Government's negotiations with SkyCity to build an international convention centre in Auckland.

The Government is supporting a proposal for the casino at the centre in exchange for a law change that would allow it to install more gaming machines, also known as pokies.

At his post-Cabinet news conference on Monday afternoon, John Key told reporters the proposed deal would attract more tourists to New Zealand, create about 800 jobs at the centre and increase the country's foreign earnings.

Mr Key says there is no conspiracy - the Government wants a convention centre built, but does not have the money to do it.

Earlier, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said until negotiations are complete, there is always the chance that one or either party could walk away from the deal.

Mr Joyce says he is not prepared to place odds on the deal, as talks continue between the casino and the Ministry of Economic Development.

The minister says the Government will not put a deadline on concluding those talks to prevent undue pressure on government negotiators. He says he accepts there is interest in the deal - most of it media-generated.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says the Government should not be making a decision that could result in changes to the Gambling Act behind closed doors.

Mayor to scrutinise deal

Auckland mayor Len Brown says he will be looking at whether the deal that would allow SkyCity casino to increase its gaming machines would increase problem gambling in the community.

Mr Brown told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday that the Auckland region desperately needs a convention centre - but if this means more gaming machines, he would be concerned to ensure that everything was done to minimise harm.

He said says it is up to the Government to decide whether the SkyCity casino can put in more gaming machines, and the Auckland Council cannot control how many would be added.

Child advocacy group Family First says Mr Brown supported a no more gaming machine policy in Auckland when he campaigned for mayor in 2010.

Family First says says the mayor should honour his pledge and oppose any law change that could result in more problem gambling and bigger debts in the community.