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PM dismisses SkyCity pokie deal concerns

Published: 11:33AM Monday April 23, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister is dismissing concerns that hundreds of new pokie machines at SkyCity will increase problem gambling.

The Green Party is among dissenting voices which claim the problem will get worse if the Auckland casino is allowed to add up to 500 more pokie machines in exchange for building a national convention centre.

But John Key told TV ONE's Breakfast that addicts will find a way to gamble regardless of how many pokies there are at the casino.

"Even if you turn the whole lot off, New Zealanders will do what they're doing today and that is log into the internet and gamble online," he said.

Key said a 'sinking lid' policy on the number of gambling machines allowed in the country had seen their numbers steadily drop.

"Back in 2005 Labour had been in office for six years and there were 25,000 pokie machines, today there are 18,000," he said.

"Yes, SkyCity will probably get a few more pokie machines, a few more at the margins, but with this sinking lid policy what will happen is over time there will be less."

Key said there was no conspiracy, and the idea of building a convention centre had been around since he was Tourism Minister in 2008.

SkyCity had come back with the most feasible proposal, he said, which weighed up economically and with minimal support from the Government.

Yesterday, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the Government could still walk away from a deal with SkyCity.

"It's quite possible that both parties end up walking away and saying, 'we can't get what we want'," Joyce told TV ONE's Q and A.