Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Gambling bill wins early nod

The gambling bill passed its first reading. Photo / Chris Skelton
The gambling bill passed its first reading. Photo / Chris Skelton

Opposition MPs successfully fought to get a conscience vote on a gambling bill on Wednesday night as part of a strategy to make sure any changes to law from the Government's negotiations with SkyCity were also decided by a conscience vote.

At the first reading of Maori MP Te Ururoa Flavell's bill, Labour MP Trevor Mallard said the vote should not be decided along party lines.

Along with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, he argued that the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill was a "moral'' or "sin'' issue which should be decided by a conscience vote.

Mr Mallard told the Herald: "If there had been a party vote last night it would have weakened the case to have a personal vote on, for example, the casino stuff.''

It was passed by a vote of 83 votes to seven.

The Government was in negotiations with SkyCity casino which could allow it to expand its gambling floor by nearly 500 pokies in exchange for funding a national convention centre.

If the SkyCity deal reached fruition, Prime Minister John Key has indicated that the required changes to the Gambling Act would not be a conscience vote for National MPs.

This was because Mr Key regarded the issue as primarily an economic one.

Conscience votes were used for the most contentious issues such as prostitution, drinking, abortion, euthanasia and gambling.

- NZ Herald

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