SkyCity warns will take money elsewhere

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 14:36 11/07/2013

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SkyCity has delivered a last minute warning to MPs voting this afternoon on the new National Convention Centre proposal that defeat will see the company send hundreds of millions of investment dollars offshore instead.

Nigel Morrison, SkyCity Entertainment managing director, said the $402 million earmarked for the long-delayed proposal would be committed elsewhere if Parliament voted against the deal.

Morrison has earlier said SkyCity would have to consider its options in the event of a no vote but was today explicit in stating building or upgrading facilities in Australia, or further afield, were the alternatives.

"We'd like to focus on Auckland with the National Convention Centre. If the NCC doesn't get approval, then I think we would certainly look at other things out there and on our plate - be it on the Gold Coast, be it in Brisbane, be it in Darwin, be in in the Philippines or be it something else," he said.

"There's no shortage of things to do in the world."

Morrison said the bitter and long-contested process culminating in the Government and SkyCity signing a deal on July 8 had made the casino a "political football" subject to savage attacks.

"It's been quite horrific, quite frankly," Morrison said of some opposition to the deal.

Morrison said SkyCity had considered and then rejected defamation action against some of the deal's more vociferous opponents.

He said a review of the project had revealed internal emails about the convention centre were first sent in March 2009 and added, half-jokingly: "If we knew the journey it was going to take, in March 2009 I might have deleted that email."

The final deal negotiated with Government involves SkyCity spending $402m to construct a convention centre capable of housing 3500 delegates.

In return SkyCity has its casino licence extended by 35 years to 2048, the ability to operate 230 more pokie machines, 40 more gaming tables and cashless gambling.

Parliament is holding a conscience vote on this issue, but a decision by the National Party to whip its members means the proposal is likely to be approved.

Morrison said the deal was good for his shareholders, but also good for the city and the country.

"It would be a great shame for it not to happen. Auckland's been calling for a NCC for 10 years, probably longer," he said.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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