I was down south last weekend for a family gathering which involved spending time at the local country club.
In between socialising, I popped off to the corner with the pokie machines and put $10 in. It was a two-cent machine so I figured it would keep me entertained for a while.
I have to confess I'm not much of a gambler; I remember about once every two months to buy a Lotto ticket and that's about it, so this was a novelty.
It wasn't long before I returned to the gathered group, having blown my money. After several helpful suggestions on how I could have improved my odds, the conversation turned to the debate on the SkyCity proposal to fund and build a convention centre in return for additional pokie machine licences.
I acknowledge there are some horror stories around problem gambling but I just don't get that having more pokie machines would create more addicted gamblers. The reality is you can only play one machine at a time. And what if we applied the same rationale to people with eating disorders? Would we have a national debate about whether another fast food outlet could open? I doubt it.
Putting aside the emotive debate on pokies, I do hope it does not derail the opportunity to see a national convention centre built in Auckland.
Conference delegates are high-spending visitors and having a national facility that can attract more international conferences to New Zealand has potential benefits for the whole country. Already estimates are that a national convention centre would boost the economy by more than $90 million a year.
So why should we care if it is to be built in Auckland? What's in it for Marlborough ? Potentially, a lot. A standard component of an international conference is the opportunity to spend extra time, pre or post the conference, travelling the destination. Having attended the conference and enjoyed a taste of New Zealand there is the potential for delegates to return for a private holiday.
As part of our regional marketing activity for Marlborough we are involved in this sector, presenting the region as the ideal pre or post conference destination. Last November we welcomed more than 100 delegates from the Society of American Travel Writers who were conferencing in Wellington. With a national convention centre, there would be a lot more where that came from, and that's good business for Marlborough.
Tracy Johnston is the general manager of Destination Marlborough.
- The Marlborough Express
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