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Key ups the ante on an empty hand

Written By: - Date published: 8:25 am, April 19th, 2012 - 77 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, corruption, tourism - Tags: , , ,

Back before John Key’s political nous deserted him (circa mid-November 2011), he would have run a mile from the dirty pokies deal with SkyCity. Instead, he’s claiming the dirty deal as his own and SkyCity’s chairman bragging about his access to Nat ministers. All to build a useless convention centre that will demand ongoing subsidies. Not worth the political capital.

77 comments on “Key ups the ante on an empty hand ”

  1. Maui 1

    Good point. John Key’s teflon touch seems to have deserted him .. but where is Shearer ?

    Working as a chippie on his new house in Mt. Albert ?

    • Bunji 1.1

      He was pretty good on Morning Report this morning actually. Hammered home how wrong this is.

      • Rupert 1.1.1

        His interview was ok, but Shearer needs to learn that explaining is loosing.

        Dealing with the media is as simple as knowing your talking points and not deviating from them – no matter what.

        • I think you mean “losing”. Loosing would imply it’s some sort of loop that’s being untightened.

          • Rupert

            Fuckity, fuck. Teach me to comment too quickly.

            • bbfloyd

              “explaining is losing” which, if applied to reality means that if one needs to explain detailed policy/philosophy etc, then you’ve lost the argument…. what does that say about how debates are run in this country?

              if you can’t get you r point across with a 5 second soundbite, then you’re wasting your time? are we nothing but gioldfish or something?

              or have we de-evolved to the point where slogans, and repeated catchphrases have become the accepted method of communicating important issues affecting whole societies?

              maybe it’s time for the tories to start using proper debating practice rather than relying on catchy one liners to silence any dissent….. or is that too hard for you…

              i’ve got a one liner for you… johhny”sparkles”key is a national disgrace….

              here’s another…. as you’re waving bye bye to you children, and grandchildren jetting off to a real life elsewhere you can say… “at least we still have that “nice” mr key looking after us”…..

  2. For me one of the really awful aspects of this disclosure is that access to Ministers is enabling Sky City “to change the way it was seen by “key influencers”.”  This access is making Sky city appear to decision makers to be just another business and not the pedaling of an activity that is really destructive.

    And Key does not get it.  He says that the Government is not selling legislation. But it is so clear that it is.  Gambling laws are being loosened up as an alternative to the Government investing in the Convention Centre.

    I wonder what Petey Hairdo will do when the legislation is introduced? 

    • toad 2.1

      Dunne will back it – he’s always been a friend of the gambling industry.

      More interesting will be John Banks’ response. Denise Roche has dug up an old speech from Banks in which he took a vehemently anti-casino position.

      Will be interesting to see if that position has been changed by SkyCity’s $15K donation to Banks’ Mayoral campaign.

    • Jim Nald 2.2

      And Key does not get it. He says that the Government is not selling legislation. But it is so clear that it is.

      Mickysavage – with respect, don’t be too sure about that.
      He says. But he does not necessarily believe.
      He knows the outcome he wants for himself.
      The modus operandi of his previous job is at work here.

      • just saying 2.2.1

        Agree Jim.

        Inevitably, there have been a couple of hiccups from unforseeable events. But Key has stayed solidly on course, and will probably reach his destination at close to the ETA.
        This is the corporate raid of his life. He is the already infamous ‘Smiling Assassin’.
        We underestimate him and his ilk at our peril imo.

      • Rupert 2.2.2

        Yeah, I don’t think Key does anything by accident. He’s a smart man.

        • travellerev

          John Key might but his masters don’t. They are much smarter than John Key

          • Maui

            I’m still laughing at “Petey Hairdo” ..

            Is that thing a wig, or is he just afraid of starting a trend of virile, Caesarian baldness ?

    • tc 2.3

      The gov’t isn’t selling legislation Mickey, the business backers have already bought it.

      The govt is just implementing it like the obedient proxies of the business roundtable and other backers they are….who’s a good johnny boy, wanna another trip, good boy off ya go.

    • Balanced View 2.4

      It is selling legislation, very clearly.
      The question though is whether or not it is warranted, i.e. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?
      I have no problem in changing (selling) legislation provided the benefits to NZ are real and large enough. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.

      • McFlock 2.4.1

        Just on that, what’s the “balanced” exchange rate between the number of kids neglected by problem gamblers and convention centre floor space?
        Is it, say, 1 kid left in the car for every 25m² space for stalls or seating? 

        • Balanced View

          Are you of the opinion that there is no benefit great enough to compensate for even one additional person negatively affected?

          • Colonial Viper

            Nice but pointless hypothetical. Gambling machines are designed to be physiologically addictive. I’d do a cigarette advertising strategy on them: plain white lights only. PC speaker beeps only. No colour pictures. Everything in black and white. And enforce 10 rest minutes per machine every hour.

            • Balanced View

              These are great ideas. Do you know if these regulations have been put in place anywhere else in the world?

              • Balanced View

                I, like I’m sure most of you, would like to see an alternative that would provide the jobs without the need of any social impact. But where is the answer?

                • McFlock

                  Well, the government-owned rail company could make its own rolling stock, for a start.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Maybe we could have NZ workers build emergency assistance housing for Christchurch, instead of the Chinese and Irish?

                    • rosy

                      We could work on increasing green energy options and training staff to do that. We could build a rail loop in Auckland.

                      Or maybe, less costly for the government, NZ can ensure decent training, pay and conditions so New Zealanders can can fish their own fish and farm their own dairy farms in Southland (not that I think there should be dairying in Southland). Might require a change in legislation, but.

                      We could even call our own NZ-based call centres. Btw did anyone mention how many jobs that will be created in a little-used convention centre will be part-time, casual and minimum wage? Didn’t think so.

                  • McFlock

                    We could boost R&D funding to help our manufacturers become more productive.
                    We could employ more social workers.
                    We could stop cuts to the public service.
                    We could put more money into business incubators.
                    We could invest in business clusters.
                    And we could pay for it all by reversing the tax cuts over the last 5 years. Or we could even make our tax rates comparable to Australia’s.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  There is always a social impact – it’s just a question of if it’s good or bad. In the case of the pokies, and everything else this government does, it’s bad.

          • McFlock

            Oh, theoretically one could envision an “ends justify the means” scenario that would cause a genuine ethical dilemma for someone who cared about neglected children. But it would have to be a pretty spectacular deviation from the core business of a convention centre, unless you have any ideas to the contrary.

          • Vicky32

            Are you of the opinion that there is no benefit great enough to compensate for even one additional person negatively affected?

            Well,  yes, I am of that opinion!

    • Maui 2.5

      I’m still laughing at “Petey Hairdo” ..

      Is that thing a wig, or is he just afraid of starting a trend of virile Caesarian baldness ?

    • VeniVidiVici 2.6

      I’m still laughing at “Petey Hairdo” ..

      Is that thing a wig, or is he afraid of starting a trend of virile Caesarian baldness ?

  3. vto 3

    Methinks Sky City, in a puffed-up self-congratulatory state, has miscalculated. The rules around pokies will almost certainly be changed again, downwards, on the next government. Big risk. They may end up with a half-built convention centre and no more pokies. That would be karma…..

    • Jim Nald 3.1

      next government

      To signal upcoming changes and open debate in the House, how about an opposition member of Parliament put in a private member’s bill that would allow a re-look at things and re-forge the social contract in this area?

      Oh, get that Lobbying Disclosure Bill through first, together with more transparency that include a tidy-up of political donations and opening up blind trusts.

  4. David 4

    In case you havent seen this, from 2010. It’s not just Key’s nous that’s gone: its his chief of staff Wayne Eagleson’s too. For Key to say “oh actually I am worried about this” would be to declare a loss of confidence in Wayne: as this article makes clear he wouldnt do in 2010, and I guess wont do now. Hard for those on the throne to know what’s really happening, if all around them are implicated in bending truth, and dont want to believe things are turning pearshaped, with them responsible!


  5. Treetop 5

    What involvement Key has had in the Sky City deal needs to be carefully scrutinised.

    Would Key stand up to the same scrutiny as Operation 8?

    I am confident to say that there would be camera surveillance to track who and when contacts to Sky City visited Key’s office.

    Sky City only pay 2.5 % to the government and bars pay 29% (figures are from memory a few weeks ago re gaming machines). As far as I am concerned Sky City are already doing very well and they should pay for the convention centre without even increasing one pokie machine. If Key really wants the convention centre he needs to tell Sky City that they already get a sweet deal and that the 2.5 % the government get is going to be put up to 29% if the convention centre is not built. Sky City would win were they to fund the cost of a conventiion centre without even increasing one pokie machine as those visiting the convention centre could go to Sky City Casino.

    • Treetop 5.1

      2.5% of pokie takings are paid by Sky City into community grants, other trusts pay 37%.

  6. David 6

    I think we need to dig deeper here. Clearly the convention centre was an initiative coming out of Key’s office (ie including Wayne Eagleson) from the start. It got the get go from the government fairly early on: Key personally took up the Tourism portfolio (why??) and, as Minister of Tourism, went to see Sky City ahead of the tender process.

    Reporting at the time was a little unclear on some things:


    but makes it clear the convention centre was something being driven from the start out of Key’s office, by the government.

    But its a little odd: Sky already were developing their convention centre (in fact they already have one): but here, now maybe was a whole new opportunity, if they could line the ducks up differently. Remember Sky City had been lobbying and failing for years around changes to the casino legislation. So, now maybe they do their political thinking: maybe even ahead of the 2008 election, how do we set this up so from the start it has political support, looks like a political win for the government, so the government are on board. Why dont we dress our whole initiative up as a national process of creating a world class convention centre? Why dont we use out exceptional links via Wayne Eagleson and Mark Unsworth’s personal relationship to get Key to take on the Tourism thing, and then set the ball rolling on the expansion…

    the roots and reach of this may be deeper and longer than we had imagined…

    • Treetop 6.1

      Sky City are thick as all they had to do was build a convention centre to increase the number of people coming through Sky City Casino. Hopefully Sky City have lost the gamble in increasing pokie machines. Possibly jeopardising 2.5% being paid into community trusts is another no brainer.

      Why shoot yourself in the foot by increasing the number of pokie machines?

    • DH 6.2

      There’s a lot of odd links & apparent coincidences in the convention centre. NZCID were pushing for one and NZCID was founded by Jim McClay, John Keys ‘mentor’. It’s mentioned somewhere in their website


      Another link is Morrison & Co who are funding the first PPP school. They’re backed with some $100million of Super Fund cash even though they’re owned by Infratil. Morrison recently bought a 49% share in the Melbourne Convention Centre;


      There’s far too many links to big business with this Govt.

      • travellerev 6.2.1

        Here is some food for thought:

        A Mega gambling centre+ A Mega brothel and a brand spanking new convention centre in the Super city and a country that still thinks that banking is a noble and honest profession with just few bad apples.

        John Key thought nothing of bringing his customers to strip joints to get them to sign on to his bonds and derivatives scams and he has said in interviews that he wanted to make New Zealand into a new Ireland.
        Where by the way he was instrumental in bringing Merryll Lynch to Ireland.

        Cocaine, corruption, strip clubs and gambling are all tools of the trade in high finance. Here is a nice quote about what played out between 1995 and 2000 the years in which John Key was so prominently employed with Merrill Lynch managing their trading desks.

        These included, said Payer, the trading desks of
        PaineWebber, Charles Schwab and Merrill Lynch.
        In the process, Payer said, cocaine became a kind
        of “payment for order flow” currency with which Sharpe’s
        trading desk paid kickbacks to some of the biggest and best-
        known firms on Wall Street to get their business.

        What you reckon? Just a conspiracy theory or could he try to pull this one?

        • DH

          The other facet of this deal is that Sky City Casino is in a crap part of town. It’s ok for a casino because most patrons won’t go outside much but a Convention Centre should be in a prime area like the waterfront where international visitors can see a bit of Auck at it’s best and spend some money, be near the transport hubs etc. It’s not a good location. Sky would love it of course because the conventioners will head to the nearest entertainment which is….

  7. David 8

    The tendering process for the convention centre looks to have been an interesting, perhaps exceptional one. Mid process, it seems, the Ministry of Economic Development(Steven Joyce’s ministry) who ran the process went back to Sky City (though to no-one else it seems) and asked them to tweak their bid. Tweaking would need them to take over and existing TVNZ site, but “they were confident” this could be handled….


    It seems pretty clear there were parallel ministerial (and inter ministerial) processes at work here… Setting up the process, seeing Sky ahead of, during and after it…

    • tc 8.1

      Taking over TVNZ’s site, who’d miss it. watched coranne and petra the other day….5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back what utter self serving crap.

      Sell it and pipe in ABc Oz/BBC/Aljazeera….people may learn something…oh hang on a minute….ahhh I get it now…. back to you Tamati have we got talent.

  8. wyndham 9

    Sky City will quit the convention centre in the not too distant future because it won’t/can’t pay. Then dear old Auckland council will have to take over another costly white elephant. Win, win for Sky City – – – they’ve got their extra pokie machines!

    • Treetop 9.1

      Government could increase what Sky City pay into community grants from 2.5% to 37%. I think this is where Sky City are vulnerable. However Key is vulnerable as to what he has actually discussed with Sky City. Sky City would have to have the proof.

    • Deano 9.2

      the opposition should make it clear they will be reversing any relaxation of gambling laws as a priority upon coming to power.

      • marsman 9.2.1


        • Jim Nald


          and the party promising to do that can state it will not accept – whether directly, indirectly, openly or covertly (eg blind trusts) – any political donations (in any form) from SkyCity

          *will crowdsource and let someone else improve on tightening up wording for that promise

  9. aerobubble 10

    Credit where credit is due. The unpaid thousands who badgered council to remove pokies from their neighborhoods, only to have John Key sell their effort to Sky Casino and bring those pokies back to life. Key, as strong believer in trickle down economics, believes that communities will be better off with these pokies and jobs for pokie players in construction and in the conference market. So why isn’t he out there thanking the unpaid pokie protesters for their efforts, who hate these machines for what they do to their poor communties. This is so sad to see, once again the efforts of poorest communties is pocketed by National, citizens ignored, and then handed over to the ‘wealth sector’ who don’t carry the risks or downsides from the return of pokies to their lives, that they worked so hard to get rid of in the first place.
    The moral of the story, if you work for the public good, National will take your efforts sell them off, and return you to your original state – you might as well have be apathetic.
    Key must have been so excited to again be shafting NZers and helping grow profit-at-any-cost capitalism. And just think for a moment, had we paid real dollars for the convention center, we’d have a clear asset, a stakeholder at the table, but what Key has done is to remove the rights of the poorest communities in NZ whose efforts, whose stakeholder share is removed. Since after all the additional pokies was the clincher that made the deal zero cost to taxpayers.
    Modern Democracy hijacked by Key and turning the very real effort of the poor to better their communities into money without any reward for their efforts, electoral slavery.
    I wonder, had we had signed a human rights convention, we’d would have an organisation in nZ with funds to sue the government and sky city for their actions.
    But no, we don’t have. We’re like China that takes land from peaseants and hands it over to property developers withou adequate compensation.
    Key has stolen the efforts of a communty who pushed for less pokies, and won less pokies, and gave them more pokies than ever, more easily assessable, central, at the end of every bus, motorway, and train line in great Auckland area!!!!!!!
    A child on hearing that the pokies, that produce so much money for local charieties, had been removed to Sky Casino where no money is returned to the local communinties, would ask their parents what good were they think they were achieving by badgering council to remove pokies, its worse now than it ever was!!!
    Key is bascially giving Aucklanders the one finger salute, you’re idiots he’s saying, you worked to get pokies machine off your back, HAHAHA, thanks for all the effort! Who made Key dictator, who made him the bastion of what is good for our economy, that morals and ethics dont matter???

  10. felix 11

    “Back before John Key’s political nous deserted him…”

    Not quite, Z, he’s just playing a different game now.

    Up until election 2011 it was all about gaining and keeping the trust of voters in order to get a second term, so we saw Key the rockstar seeking fame and adulation and wanting to be loved by the little people. That’s all done now, mission accomplished. He’s not coming back for another go.

    Now it’s all about positioning himself for his life after politics, where he needs the respect and trust of the real movers and shakers. So we’re seeing Key the broker, cutting deals on behalf of global capital.

    That’s why he’s in Singapore telling investors they can buy NZ cheap. That’s why he made the offer to Sky City, not the other way around. That’s who he’s playing to now. That’s his new job.

    It’s not that his nous has left him, it’s just that the little people don’t register on his radar any more.

    • deuto 11.1

      I think you are spot on, Felix. IMO, he has defintely given up the Mr Nice, smile and wave persona; and probably cannot wait to move on once his mission is accomplished. Get the feeling we will see him less and less in NZ in the coming months.

  11. Brian 12

    I wonder if he will change the cannabis laws in exchange for an opera house on Auckland’s waterfront?…. just a thought…..

    • fender 12.1

      So long as it’s his cronies that control the production and distribution of the pot. His cocaine crazy cronies from wall street will build two opera houses to get that contract!

  12. Fortran 13

    If we assume that Sky City does not get its additional pokies who is going to give Auckland a Convention Centre.
    Come on Len – you can find the half billion surely to build, and who will pay for the upkeep ?

    • Rob 13.1

      Well the rail loop has to end somewhere

    • felix 13.2

      “If we assume that Sky City does not get its additional pokies who is going to give Auckland a Convention Centre.”

      Who’s stopping them from building one now? Fuck, it’s their land and their money, let them build as many as they like.

    • Majella 13.3

      Maybe Dunedin City Council will come to the party. It has great experience in under-capitalised asset development!

  13. Majella 14

    Fortran – Maybe Dunedin City Council will come to the party. It has great experience in under-capitalised asset development!

  14. deuto 15

    And the waters get even murkier – the latest on Stuff states:

    Prime Minister John Key ordered officials to stop work on plans for a national convention centre after Sky City indicated it might extend its existing facility, Cabinet papers reveal.

    The papers have emerged as Key today said he “advised himself” to chase Sky City for a deal to build a new national convention centre in exchange for changes to gambling laws.

    The papers, released by Labour, show Economic Development Ministry officials started looking in to a national convention centre with a feasibility study in August 2009.

    Key, as Tourism Minister, was briefed on the study and officials started work on a full business case for a new convention centre.

    But after it emerged around the same time that Sky City was considering expanding its convention centre, Key called a halt to work on the business case.

    This was pre Key’s dinner with Sky City bosses in 2009.


  15. Paul Campbell 16

    Goddamned convention centres, how many do we need, Dunedin has just built one and renovated another (and a third has just gone bust), Christchurch is building one as a lynchpin of its recovery, the latest rort is Auckland

    Who is holding all these damned conventions?

    • Deano 16.1

      Mostly, it’s conventions of convention centre owners.

      They talk about how tactics to wring more subsidies out of governments

  16. infused 17

    Chasing this one will burn Labour. I wait with excitement.

    I feel Labour is being setup to take the bait.

  17. David 18

    “Mr Key says that he gave the same treatment to all five bidders for the convention centre, and insists there is no conflict of interest.”

    dont think so…

    Is he saying, before the biiding started, I went to Auckland City and others, and said to them, if I let you guys put 500 pokies into the Aotea Centre or the refurnished St James theatre, will you make a bid for the casino that lets me off the hook paying for it?

    Cant imagine it somehow.

    Is he saying around the start of the bidding process, my chief of staff went on a boys night out with Len Brown, Conor Roberts and Penny Hulse to Las Vegas, where we binged on all the fruits of gambling profits (oh but they paid for themselves)….

    Is he saying, half way through the bidding process, MED got back to Auckland city and others wwith instructions on how to tweak the bid to make it more acceptable?

    doesnt seem that way.

  18. lefty 19

    Which political party is going to be first to say they will ban pokies if they become government?

    That would stop this corrupt deal pretty quickly.

  19. Rosemary 20

    “Back before John Key’s political nous deserted him…”

    Key has never had political nous. Some around him may have a tiny bit, but Key – never. He’s been a man of circumstance, lucky – no more than that. And as a result, of course, he will fall in disgrace or at the very least be remembered as a hollow man. The question is when but it’s likely to be sooner rather than later. Wait for the lies when crunch time comes.

  20. fabregas4 21

    I hate that part of this is that poor gambling addled people will almost never get an invite to any event at the convention centre which will, instead, be host to Key and his ilk. And when the thing is built and Sky have their pokies the taxpayer including said gambling addled will pay for its upkeep which will in turn bring convention attending customers to Sky City. Add on that the social costs of the gambling addled will be met by the taxpayer for the rest of time and that all this will also help fuel the new mega brothel to be built near the Casino and the conference centre then the Super City is fast becoming the Shitty, morally lost, Trash Town. Once we were Warriors – now what are we.

    • Colonial Viper 21.1

      more gambling? more rich dinner events for Tories at the new convention centre? and mega-brothels too?

      Welcome to a new round of GDP growth, New Zealand!!!

    • Rosemary 21.2

      “…gambling addled…”

      You seem to be referring only to those on benefits, low incomes, the poor generally, when the reality is that the “gambling addled” includes people from every bracket. The difference is that the gambling poor become more visible because the consequences are more acute amongst the poor – i.e. can’t afford to meet basic needs etc. Gambling ‘addledness” of course happens amongst the wealthy, but it’s way less visible because because the wealthy have a greater buffer – their wealth – but the fact that there are wealthy people who fall to the mighty gambling addiction and lose everything is hugely informative but unfortunately is ignored by most therefore reduces the quality of the discussion close to silliness.

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