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Calls for Govt to rethink SkyCity deal

Published: 1:28PM Wednesday April 18, 2012 Source: ONE News

There are calls for the Government to restart the tender process for a national convention centre following revelations the Prime Minister brokered a deal with SkyCity.
John Key today confirmed he approached the casino operator along with other parties about funding the facility.

In return the law will be changed to allow SkyCity an extra 350 to 500 pokie machines.

Key said he went to SkyCity in his capacity as Tourism Minister as the Government is unwilling to fund the centre.

But other parties who put in a bid to build the national convention centre say the odds appeared to be in SkyCity's favour

"I don't think there's any complete surprise from our point of view," said Ngati Whatua chief executive Tiwana Tibble. "We did know that they were talking behind closed doors in the early time."

The deal has been met with strong opposition from Labour Leader David Shearer who says Key is effectively "selling a law".

"He's cut right across the tender process," said Shearer.

"He's gone to SkyCity and said 'if you give us a convention centre, we'll change the law so you can have more pokie machines'. That stinks."

Key says he is backing the SkyCity deal because it is the only one that will not cost taxpayers a cent.

"I've spoken to lots of different parties about potential deals for them to put together a convention centre," Key said.

"It's blindingly obvious it won't pay for itself. In the case of SkyCity it is obvious that they would want different parts and different ways of making money."

Tibble says Ngati Whatua's offer is still on the table, but admits it can not compete with the $350 million offer from SkyCity.

Tibble said putting it out to tender again would be a waste of taxpayer money.

Under proposed changes, SkyCity is not only planning to increase the number of pokie machines on the casino floor but will also introduce a new "cashless" style of pokie machine.

Gamblers will have to buy tickets to use the machines which will then store any wins or losses.

Labour has set up a "show us your cards, John" website to oppose the expansion plans at SkyCity.