Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Mayor's home region points finger over pokies deal

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland Mayor Len Brown's home community of Otara has criticised his support of a "pokies for convention centre" deal.

The Otara Gambling and Alcohol Action Group and the Otara Network Action Committee say they are disappointed in Mr Brown for not standing up and opposing the deal.

Jim Sinclair, who belongs to both groups, said they hoped "our mayor" would provide a moral compass on the the issue and do what was best.

"Pokies are dangerous and we don't want any more of them," he said. "We don't want a convention centre that is funded by gambling."

The groups said that as Mayor of Manukau, Mr Brown was part of a community effort to get a sinking lid on pokies in Manukau, and they looked to him to show the same leadership on the SkyCity deal.

Last night, Mr Brown made no apologies for supporting a pokies for convention centre deal, saying areas such as South Auckland needed the jobs and the investment.

"We need the hundreds of millions of extra tourist dollars a convention centre would attract - dollars that are currently going to cities like Brisbane," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown highlighted the economic benefits when SkyCity was chosen to build a $350 million convention centre in June last year. He opposed calls from councillors for a report on the social and economic effects of more pokies at the casino.

It was not until last month that he wrote to Prime Minister John Key calling for tougher harm minimisation measures, fewer pokies than the proposed figure of 350 to 500, and more money for community groups.

"I have always been and will continue to be at the forefront of the battle against problem gambling.

"I championed a sinking lid policy in Manukau and I am now seeking urgent action on a problem gambling strategy across all of Auckland," said Mr Brown.

- NZ Herald

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