John Minto: Key 'deliberately dishonest' on SkyCity

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John Minto is vice-president of the Mana Movement.

About 80 per cent of problem gamblers are addicted to pokies. Photo / Christine Cornege
About 80 per cent of problem gamblers are addicted to pokies. Photo / Christine Cornege

The Prime Minister's ducking and weaving to avoid responsibility for the more favourable treatment of SkyCity in the bidding to provide a national convention centre should take second place to a bewildering claim he made a few days earlier.

Under the Herald-on-line headline "SkyCity deal doesn't mean more pokies - Key" the Prime Minister claimed the Government's decision to approve 300 more pokies machines at SkyCity wouldn't mean an increase in pokies for New Zealand.

Hang on a minute - run that one past me again.

Key's argument is that New Zealand's pokie numbers have been slowly dropping in recent years through "sinking lid" policies adopted by many local councils whereby if a venue closes the pokie machines cannot be relocated elsewhere. Key says the 300 extra pokies will simply stop the number dropping for a couple of years and after that the numbers will continue to drop as they are today.

What an astonishing attack on basic arithmetic. Three-hundred more pokies is simply that - 300 more than before the SkyCity deal is done.

According to the Prime Minister a sinking lid in the community justifies lifting the lid for SkyCity. Yeah right.

It's deliberately dishonest reasoning like this which politicians use to justify deals for their corporate friends which they know the community doesn't want.

It's a particularly nasty insult because local community groups have worked hard to reduce pokie numbers and the destructive impact these designed-to-addict machines have on families, extended families and whole communities.

Key is trading away these hard-won local policies to grow SkyCity's profit.

It wasn't Key who brought in "sinking lids" but community groups sick and tired of trying to pick up the pieces after pokie addictions destroy families. Around 80 per cent of problem gamblers have their addiction to pokies and an estimated half of pokie revenue comes from this same group. Pokies are well ahead as the most serious gambling addiction.

It's worth remembering too that the 300 extra pokies at SkyCity come without even the dubious benefit of funding for community groups which the non-casino pokies provide. Similarly for taxation. The casino pokies pay much less tax than pokies elsewhere. It's just pure profit.

Auckland will be hardest hit by Key's proposal. The old Auckland City abandoned its "sinking lid" three years ago and allowed the relocation of pokies if a venue closed so the very area which has seen the least reduction in machines is to have an extra 300 added.

Key has also used the argument that pokies at SkyCity will do less damage because "... the host responsibilities are very strong on an operator like SkyCity so I think we can cover that bit off".

It seems Key hasn't been reading much reporting of the awful incidents at SkyCity where host responsibility comes well behind stripping the pockets of the poor.

As others have pointed out the convention centre will be paid for by problem gamblers and their long-suffering families.

It's become very obvious that John Key has an unhealthy relationship with SkyCity just as do the two-bit celebrities who work alongside the Prime Minister to push a positive message about gambling to override the sordid reality.

Key's gloss over the destructive effects of this convention centre for pokies deal ring as hollow as the mindless bling-bling of the machines.

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