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Casino chases taxpayer-funded marketing

Wednesday 20 Feb 2013 5:44 p.m.

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Another demand from Sky City has emerged in the pokies-for-a-convention-centre deal. The casino wants an annual payout from the taxpayer for marketing and promotion of the convention centre.

The Government isn't ruling it out, but the Opposition says it will cost millions.

The deal is all about a $350 million convention centre. Sky City builds it, and Prime Minister John Key's government changes the law so the casino gets 300 more pokies.

But the Auditor-General's report reveals the casino wants much more than that. It wants an ongoing taxpayer handout for marketing.

Sky City called it a 'quid pro quo', the report said. It is "an annual payment for marketing and promoting the convention centre and associated business events".

Face-to-face negotiations were underway again today, and the handout is still on the table.

The report shows there was a fight within the Beehive over the amount of contact the Prime Minister's office was having with Sky City.

In March 2010, Gerry Brownlee referred to “too many people talking to Sky City”, and the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson, said he was “happy to step back”.

But within days, Mr Eagleson was back for more – two meetings in fact – about the "regulatory relief" Sky City wanted – that's code for the pokies deal.

The Greens are already back complaining to the Auditor-General that Mr Key breached a confidentiality clause by going public saying he had nothing to worry about before it was released. But nothing will stop this deal. Behind the scenes, sources in both the casino and the Government are clearly good to go.

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