Gambling stories 'will sway Nats'

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2013
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Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei believes stories about the impact of problem gambling could yet sway MPs and prevent the passage of the controversial SkyCity bill.

The bill narrowly passed a conscience vote on its first reading by 61 votes to 59 yesterday.

National had said its MPs would vote along party lines regardless and, with ACT and UnitedFuture, had the votes necessary for the bill to advance following impassioned debate from a number of members.

The public will now be allowed to have its say and Ms Turei believes the stories of the harm caused by gambling could change National MPs' minds and defeat the bill.

"I genuinely believe that if MPs are given a chance to vote according to their conscience, and they're given the opportunity to hear the stories from the community, that they will genuinely consider voting against the bill."

Turei also criticised SkyCity boss Nigel Morrison for his comments yesterday that if the bill failed it would take its money elsewhere.

"That kind of threat to MPs or that kind of threat in order to influence MPs' votes is anti-democratic and just plain wrong and goes to show how important it is that we do have strict controls on casinos if this is the way that they behave."

The Green Party would fight to ensure the bill was subject to a conscience vote throughout the process, she said.

Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson said their feedback was that people were opposed to the bill "and I'm sure the Government will be hearing that".

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill was about investment, jobs and growth.

"Parties in favour of jobs for New Zealanders are supporting the bill. Parties that don't care about jobs for New Zealanders are opposing it," he said.

If passed, the bill will ratify a deal between the Government and SkyCity under which SkyCity will fund a $402 million convention centre in exchange for gambling concessions and an extended licence.

Opponents have argued it will cause significant gambling-related harm, while the Government has emphasised its economic benefits, saying it will create hundreds of jobs and pump an extra $90m into the economy every year.

The bill will be back before Parliament on November 14.

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