SkyCity is paying tens of thousands of dollars for the services and star-power of some of the country's biggest celebrity names.

Mike Hosking has done regular work for the casino, and Paul Henry has a "long-standing association" with it. SkyCity sponsors several big-name sports stars and provides a 'chairman's card' for a small number of celebrities allowing them free five-star hotel rooms, meals and drinks.

The relationship is a win-win for all involved, but is rarely spoken about. Some of the famous faces perform MC or promotional duties; other 'ambassadors' just have to be seen in the casino's 25 bars and restaurants.

Former Warriors captain Steve Price has a lucrative private sponsorship contract with the casino complex. The Breakers basketball team also eat and drink there, as part of a separate sponsorship scheme.


Some celebrities have confirmed to the Herald on Sunday that they have been paid a retainer or given a "chairman's card" that allowed them to dine in-house. The paper has been told of $2000 monthly retainers.

One former celebrity "ambassador", who spoke on condition of anonymity, signed a contract with a strict confidentiality clause. The person received a "chairman's card" but no cash.

In return the source had to be seen at SkyCity twice a week for anything from coffee to accommodation. "I entertained a lot of influential people there. It was a fantastic perk." The source had also seen Paul Henry using the card.

Herald on Sunday columnist Kerre Woodham received a card as a one-off "thank you gift" after doing some MCing at SkyCity charity events several years ago. Hers allowed her to spend up to $1000 on anything but gambling, but she has no ongoing relationship with the casino.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison was a frequent guest on Paul Henry's RadioLive drive time show. But Henry'sNew Zealand employer, MediaWorks, said the company was aware of his links to the casino and expected transparency.

"We are aware that there is a long-standing association between Paul Henry and SkyCity," a spokeswoman said. "All MediaWorks staff are required to declare potential conflicts of interest of either a business or personal nature.

"Where these do exist, they are carefully managed so that our editorial integrity is not compromised - and this was the case during the time Paul was with Radio Live."

Henry is based in Sydney where he hosts Channel 10's breakfast show. Neither he nor Hosking, who is said to MC at the casino and do other corporate work, returned calls.


Hosking's primary employer, the Radio Network, did not return calls. Megan Richards, spokeswoman for TVNZ where Hosking fills in as Close Up host, said by email: "I know nothing about SkyCity's programme. I'm not aware of any of our employees being a part of it. Mike is a contractor with us."

Hosking is a big fan of the restaurants at SkyCity, as shown by his online Tweets.

March 10: "We went to Dine by Peter Gordon at the Sky Grand ... new menu he's on fire." March 16: "Just been for the pre Close Up dinner at Depot, Al's got some awesome new stuff on the menu he's a genius."

SkyCity wouldn't discuss confidential arrangements. But five people who had been party to such deals confirmed some received cash, others got a chairman's card with stored credit and some got both.