SkyCity 'victimised' in convention centre debate

SkyCity says it has been "victimised" in the debate over the $400 million International Convention Centre deal, but a law change to allow increased gambling has the potential to go ahead.

The New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill passed its first reading yesterday by 61 votes to 59 with support from National, United Future and the Act Party.

Because the legislation dealt with gambling concessions, MPs could vote on conscience instead of according to party policy.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison told Radio New Zealand that the bill's passage through its first reading was "probably a very important indicator of its potential to pass".

But he was scathing of the debate leading up to the first reading.

"I think the whole debate has been very heated right the way through, and unfortunately I think it's been politically motivated. It's not a fair assessment of us and I think we've been victimised in the process.

"We're, quite frankly, quite upset about that, and we're very concerned for our staff and our customers and a lot of things that have been said have been totally wrong."

He said criticism of the casino as morally bankrupt was "absolutely outrageous".

Asked if he was concerned the bill might not pass, Mr Morrison told Radio NZ that was "part of the democratic process".

"And it's up to the good people of Parliament to weigh up the pros and cons of legislation and do what they think is fit. They were voted in by the people of New Zealand, and that's their unfettered right, to have that right."

Mr Morrison said the convention centre, if it went ahead, could "potentially" be tainted by the debate.

"But I think the challenge for us is to get our message out."

He said the casino was a small player in terms of harm.

"We're a destination casino, we're not a community gaming outlet and there are thousands of those, and that's where the vast majority of harm is caused - not in destinations that are tightly controlled, that have strong security, strong surveillance.

"We're not the problem - we're probably accountable in New Zealand for probably only 5 per cent of presentations to gambling counselling services."

Mr Morrison said it was "rubbish" that measures only kicked in once someone had a gambling problem. He said voluntary limits on gaming machines were already in place.

The bill is back before Parliament on November 14.


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