For almost two decades, the Sky Tower has dominated the Auckland skyline. Had social media been in full cry when it first soared above the city, then doubtless it would have been the target of campaigns challenging its concrete dominance and its magnetic pull to the gambling industry which flourishes at its massive base. But over the years the grey and silver pillar has sunk its deep foundations into the currents which energise Auckland to the point where it is somehow difficult to imagine the city without the mighty column and its New Year fireworks display.
Just as the tower makes an exclamation mark in the sky, the gaming business beneath it has become an enormous 24-hour economic machine run by SkyCity Entertainment. The Auckland casino, which is marking 20 years of profitable business, is the biggest in the company's chain of five gaming houses. In recent years, it has diversified by opening restaurants and bars in the Federal St precinct. Its five-star hotel draws pop stars, presidents and potentates.
When the company's $470 million convention centre is up and running by the middle of 2019, SkyCity will have an even bigger midtown footprint, a city within a city. Around 3500 staff are on the payroll. One thousand more will be added when the convention project, which includes a hotel, is completed.
By its nature, the company's business gets intense scrutiny, and not just from those who object to gambling.
Criminals laundering money through the VIP lounge have been exposed. The company's push for the taxpayer to fund part of the convention centre was rightly rejected, though SkyCity wrung a valuable extension to its Auckland monopoly, besides extra gaming tables and pokies, in its dealings with Wellington. The company, ever mindful of its role as a corporate citizen, has sailed through these controversies. It is a safe bet that the business will celebrate many more anniversaries.