The decision to get half the steel framing needed for SkyCity's new convention centre from Thai Herrick, a US-owned firm based in Thailand, rather than local suppliers shocked many people. Who knew we still had a steel industry?

Before we ratchet up the dudgeon levels, it would behove us to remember what a casino operator does: it makes its money from gambling, conducting games of chance where the elements of probability are finessed so that nearly all the risk is on the punter's side.

It is not in the business of losing.

This, after all, is the company that, once the deal was nearly done, tried to squeeze another $100 million or so from the Government for cost over-runs it suddenly discovered.


Back then, the Prime Minster, touting the scheme with all the in-your-face ardour of a street corner Greenpeace collector, included among its benefits the jobs it would create.

Only now is it clear that he was speaking about jobs in Thailand.

Let's put this in context. What we have with the steel deal is a short-term loss in the interests of a long-term gain. Once the convention centre is in full swing there will of course be lots of extra work for locals.

Vacancies will be available for local sex workers and addiction counsellors. If you're a dab hand at making a bed or cleaning a toilet you'll be set for life. A small army will also be needed to move along homeless people attempting to use the centre and its surroundings for shelter.

The prospect of jobs, particularly in construction, was one of the few things about the tawdry deal that made it even slightly palatable.

Then came the property boom and suddenly builders were taking orders three years ahead as equity-flush suburbanites decided to splash out on renos that would look over the top at Versailles.

Only the most naive observers would have expected the convention centre and expanded casino to have been built before we got to feel ripped off. Sky City Entertainment's first half profits were up 30 per cent, and you don't get a result like that by throwing money around in your local community.

Instead, we are seeing trickle-down economics. The reason it is called trickle down is that it rarely turns into something that could be described as a cash flow.

It could have been written into the convention centre deal that if they were up to the task, local businesses had to be employed.

But that wouldn't have let the free market work its magic.

You might wonder how the free market was at work when Sky City demanded and got extra gambling capacity and numerous other concessions. It probably helped that it was doing the deal with a Government that won't raise a finger to help a local industry whose continued existence in the face of such obstacles seems little short of miraculous.

More news from the future turned up this week in an announcement guaranteed to send a chill running down traditional media spines. In March, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, 197,800 Americans were employed in internet publishing and broadcasting, as opposed to 183,200 working in newspapers. That's the thing about the future - it never stops happening.

The original version of this column stated SkyCity made the decision to purchase the steel from new convention centre from Thai Herrick. In fact, it was Fletcher Construction.