Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Key wins on horses, collects on pokies

PM backs Melbourne Cup winner and SkyCity legislation passes second reading.

Early yesterday, Mr Key paid a visit to the TAB at Wellington Railway Station near Parliament where he backed Melbourne Cup contenders Tres Blue and Fiorente $25 each way. Photo / @JohnKeyPM
Early yesterday, Mr Key paid a visit to the TAB at Wellington Railway Station near Parliament where he backed Melbourne Cup contenders Tres Blue and Fiorente $25 each way. Photo / @JohnKeyPM

Prime Minister John Key began his day at the TAB yesterday and by the end of it had enjoyed two wins, with one of his picks taking out the Melbourne Cup and his controversial SkyCity pokies-for-convention centre deal legislation passing its second reading.

Early yesterday, Mr Key paid a visit to the TAB at Wellington Railway Station near Parliament where he backed Melbourne Cup contenders Tres Blue and Fiorente $25 each way.

Mr Key won $240 when Fiorente won the race shortly after the second reading of the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill began.

The legislation allows for the deal under which SkyCity will build and operate a $400 million international convention centre in return for hundreds of additional gaming machines and other gambling law concessions including a 25-year extension to its licence.

To mark the second reading, the Green Party assembled its "cardboard casino" on Parliament's forecourt yesterday with boxes representing the additional 230 pokie machines, 240 automated player stations and 40 extra table games SkyCity gets under the deal.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce kicked off the debate by once again emphasising the economic boost the convention centre would give Auckland and the rest of New Zealand.

'This is a bill about jobs and growth. Parties in favour of those things will vote in favour today, parties that cry crocodile tears but don't actually support anything to create jobs and growth will once again vote against."

And again he downplayed the prospect of the deal creating more problem gambling.

"There is no certainty at all that this bill will increase the prevalence of harm created by problem gambling. The impact on the incidence of problem gambling from increasing gambling opportunities within an existing gambling venue is by no means clear." he said.

Mr Joyce earlier denied a Herald report that information about gambling harm resulting from the deal was withheld at the request of SkyCity. "The SkyCity-related material that was withheld relates solely to information that was provided in confidence and would have the potential to unreasonably prejudice SkyCity's commercial position," he told Parliament.

"It was not in relation to harm or harm minimisation."

Meanwhile, Labour's Trevor Mallard promised his party would regulate to prevent gambling harm if in Government and would not compensate SkyCity if it felt such regulation was necessary. "If the convention centre is half built, no one is going to rip up the foundations but this deal is gold plated and we will not be bound by it."

Labour would support amendments to the legislation to beef up harm minimisation put forward by the Greens yesterday, Mr Mallard said.

- NZ Herald

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