James Elliott: However you spin the wheel, it's a weird deal

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Mike Hosking. Photo / Supplied
Mike Hosking. Photo / Supplied

TVNZ banned Mike Hosking from covering stories about SkyCity Entertainment after he acknowledged he had a celebrity deal with the company. That's a shame because here's how the interview with John Key over the proposed SkyCity convention centre might have gone:

Hosk: Before we start I should probably declare my involvement with SkyCity.

Key: Meaning what exactly?

Hosk:Meaning that I should probably declare my involvement with SkyCity ... but I'm not going to, except maybe to a women's magazine.

Key: I'm not sure I follow.

Hosk: Well, let me put it this way, I'm a SkyCity cheerleader but I don't have any pom poms.

Key: Oh, I see. Well, the way the Blues are going I don't blame you for wanting to keep your cards close to your chest about that.

Hosk: So let's cut straight to the chase. A $350 million convention centre in exchange for a few more pokie machines seems like an incredibly good deal for all New Zealanders. Is that how you see it?

Key: Well, I don't think that's a balanced question, Mike.

Hosk: How so?

Key: Because it suggests the Government is providing the pokie machines in exchange for the convention centre when in fact SkyCity pays for both. So really it's a brilliant deal.

Hosk: You're not concerned about being accused of playing favourites?

Key: Not at all. I've never even heard of favourites. I play a little poker and some roulette.

Hosk: But you're going to make changes to the Gambling Act just for the benefit of SkyCity.

Key: Well, not exclusively for their benefit.

Hosk: How so?

Key: Well, we're also going to make them change the colours on the roulette tables and the playing cards from red and black to red and blue to introduce a bit of political balance.

Hosk: That seems entirely reasonable to us. But aren't you concerned about problem gamblers coming straight to the casino from work with their wage packets in their back pockets?

Key: Yes, very concerned. That's why we're devising a system to allow wages to be direct-credited straight to the pokie machines. That way there's no risk of slippage.

Hosk: And what will the Government do to ensure that gamblers still have money left over for household basics like groceries?

Key: We're going to modify the fruit machines to deal with that.

Hosk: What, by putting betting limits on them?

Key: No. We're going to modify the fruit machines so that they pay out with actual fruit. Actually, it will be organic fruit to keep the Greens on side. And that's over and above replacing the felt on the gaming tables with hemp.

Hosk: Now I also have to ask you this, because I've been told to - isn't this project going to create lots of new jobs?

Key: Yes it will, Mike. More pokie machines is certainly going to mean that more police officers are needed in the organised crime task force.

Hosk: But the Government will have to pay for that.

Key: That's okay, we have a plan. In fact, it's a guaranteed way to win at roulette.

Hosk: Isn't that a little risky?

Key: Not if you bet on blue, Mike, not if you bet on blue.

- Herald on Sunday

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