Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Super City elections 2013: Mayor accused of pokies u-turn

Challenger John Minto queries mid-campaign change after Len Brown supported SkyCity casino deal.

When SkyCity was chosen to build a convention centre in June 2011, Mr Brown talked up the economic benefit to Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
When SkyCity was chosen to build a convention centre in June 2011, Mr Brown talked up the economic benefit to Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

Mayor Len Brown is trying to rewrite history over his support for the SkyCity pokies-convention centre deal, says mayoral challenger John Minto.

After being an enthusiastic supporter of the deal since day one, Mr Brown appeared to change tack in yesterday's Herald Super City election guide.

"I support the need for Auckland to have an international convention centre and the economic benefits it will deliver, but I do not support the deal done to finance it," he said.

The deal, signed in late July, gives SkyCity necessary exemptions from the Gambling Act to allow it 230 extra pokie machines and other concessions in return for the company building and operating a $402 million convention centre at its downtown Auckland site.

Mr Minto said Mr Brown had always strongly supported the trade-off of more pokies for a convention centre and voted against councillor Cathy Casey's motion in June to oppose "the Government's proposal for SkyCity to develop a convention centre in return for changes in our gambling legislation to increase gambling at the SkyCity casino".

"Now in the middle of the election campaign, Mr Brown wants to rewrite history. What a shameless porkie. His fingerprints are all over this grubby deal with SkyCity," said Mr Minto, the Mana mayoral candidate.

When SkyCity was chosen to build a convention centre in June 2011, Mr Brown talked up the economic benefit to Auckland.

He opposed calls from councillors for a report on the social and economic impacts of more pokies at the casino, and figures on SkyCity's grants to charities.

Last year, he called for measures to reduce the impact of more pokies at the casino on problem gamblers, but did not oppose the funding model.

A spokesman for Mr Brown's election campaign said the mayor had been upfront about Auckland needing a major convention centre to create jobs and boost local tourism.

"The decision on which of the convention centre options was chosen was not for him or council to make. The Government chose SkyCity and the way it was financed. Len Brown has been very clear that he is concerned by the expansion of gambling facilities which are part of the deal," the spokesman said.

Change of tack

*June 2011: Len Brown talks up economic benefits of pokies for convention centre deal.
*April 2012: Brown calls for measures to reduce impact on problem gamblers. Still supports the deal.
*June 2013: Brown votes against council motion opposing the deal.
*October 2013: Brown says he does not support the deal in Herald election supplement.
*October 1: John Minto calls Brown's position a "shameless porkie".

- NZ Herald

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