Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Sex industry likely to get boost from centre

An artist's impression of SkyCity's proposed International Convention Centre to be built in the Auckland CBD. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of SkyCity's proposed International Convention Centre to be built in the Auckland CBD. Photo / Supplied

The sex industry is looking forward to a big leg up from SkyCity's proposed National Convention Centre and the thousands of free-spending overseas conventioneers it would draw to Auckland.

The Government is negotiating a deal that would see the casino operator build a $350 million 3500-capacity convention centre in return for legislative changes allowing it more poker machines and gaming tables and other regulatory concessions.

Should it go ahead, the new convention centre is expected to draw an additional 22,000 overseas visitors to Auckland and boost tourism revenue by up to $85.4 million.

Brian Le Gros, owner of Queen St's Whitehouse strip club and massage parlour, said the additional overseas visitors and spending would be good all round for Auckland.

"It's hard to say whether I'm going to get any of them. If they don't bring their wives, it probably will."

Director of "gentlemen's clubs" Calendar Girls and The Whiskey Lounge Jacqui Le Prou said her company's Christchurch operations did very well whenever there was a big convention in that city.

"Of course men, when they go away out of town, they like to visit my kind of establishment or an escort agency."

However, she feared the SkyCity deal could see conventioneers' spending money swallowed up by the casino.

"It could be very, very good but it potentially could be the complete opposite and everyone is completely drained before they walk out the door."

Catherine Healy of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective said international conventions drew people away from their normal settings.

"Normally when that happens people are more relaxed about hooking up with other people."

"The spectrum across restaurants, bars, all across the businesses that make up the adult entertainment arena, will benefit and part of that will be brothels that are nearby, for sure."

Research by the United States Centre for Problem Oriented Policing notes that street prostitution flourishes around convention centres and hotels, "especially when mostly male conventions are held", and Ms Healy said sex workers were "a savvy bunch and if money's being spent somewhere they engineer to be around".

However, she did not expect an explosion of street prostitution or new brothels around the casino and new convention centre.

"Street workers generally have tried-and-true areas they stick to."

But while she was not aware of problems with prostitutes working in and around casinos, she knew of sex workers who frequented them in their leisure time, including "people who have become sex workers to combat debts built around gambling".

"Sex work is one of those occupations that is quite accessible.

"It understandably does tend to pick up people who have debt that they want to clear."

- NZ Herald

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