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Sky City deal lacked transparency – Auditor-General

Tuesday 19 Feb 2013 5:54 p.m.

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The Auditor-General's not happy with the way the Government did a deal with Sky City that would see it build a convention centre in exchange for more pokie licences.

It says the deal – championed by Prime Minister John Key – was neither transparent, nor fair to other players.

But while John Key and his officials didn't cheat, they certainly did play favourites.

"We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with Sky City was influenced by any inappropriate considerations," the report says.

But it is highly critical of how Sky City got itself into pole position to build the convention centre ahead of five other groups.

"We do not consider that the approach adopted was appropriate. The result was that one submitter was treated differently from the others.

"In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness."

The report details a series of meetings between Mr Key and his senior staff with Sky City bosses. There was an early handwritten note by Mr Key about "the Sky City angle".

The most significant was a dinner in November, where the Prime Minister told Sky City to "think outside the box".

The deal is of course right outside the box – the casino builds the convention centre and the Government changes the law to give it more pokies.

And the deal's back on, with Sky City wanting 300 pokies, so for now the house wins – but the game is not over.

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