GUEST BLOG: Brenda McQuillan – A Problem Gamblers View of the Deal


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The entire SKYCITY Entertainment Group Ltd. (Sky City) and National government deal seems like it has been a $130m con to the New Zealand taxpaying public!
Right from the start, way back in February 2013, the Deputy Controller & Auditor General, Phillipa Smith, highlighted in her report to the Key Government a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and the steps taken by the Ministry of Economic Development. At the time Teflon John ducked and dived.
Remember the deal was, if Sky City built, oh and paid for, an international convention centre all they asked for were two concessions.

  1. A 35 year extension on their license. But under the Gambling Act 2003, any casino wishing to extend their license must produce an independently written report into the economic and social impacts of the extension on the community. They did not produce such a report, instead they used a predictive model created by Focal Research Consultants, a Canadian research group that specialises in social and marketing research pertaining to the gambling industry, which analyses loyalty data as a tool to identify players at risk from gambling harm. This was their “harm minimisation” solution. Window dressing that would have little or no impact on gambling harm. So the government contravened their own legislation.
  2. The government would allow 230 more “pokies” or Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM’s), 40 more gaming tables and, now this is the really clever move by SKYCITY Entertainment Group Ltd., 12 table games that can be automated with up to 20 terminals per table, or as I like to interpret it, 240 more EGM’s. So they get 470 more EGM’S and 40 gaming tables.

Now they are asking for the tax payer to give them $130 million but there is no mention of them decreasing any of the concessions.
Finally according to the latest DIA figures released for the last financial year there was an $808 million expenditure on pokies in Clubs and pubs in New Zealand and $509 million expenditure in casinos. Every year, under the often overlooked Gambling Act 2003, a Problem Gambling levy is collected from the four sectors of the gambling industry, Clubs and Pubs, Lotto, TAB and casinos. The levy is calculated every three years by the rate of player losses and presentations at gambling harm treatment providers. It averages out to approximately $18 million per year. This money is administered by the Ministry of Health and it is used to fund research, treatment provision and harm minimisation programmes. Let me stress this is NOT taxpayer money.


This government is now proposing to give $130 million dollars to one casino, that is more than eight times the money spent to help people harmed by problem gambling and most importantly, to keep our communities safe from gambling harm. Shame on you John Key, shame.



I am a consumer advisor for problem gambling and harm minimisation. I first gambled 20 years ago and it has been a journey of pain, joy and discovery. I am currently living a gamble free life. I was the first person in New Zealand to self exclude from a class four venue.
I am a member of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Problem Gambling and Harm Minimisation. I have spoken to, and hosted workshops, at previous international gambling conferences and I speak regularly to community groups in my hometown of Nelson.
I have spoken to various media over the years in response to problem gambling issues.
I facilitate a Problem Gambling Support Group in Nelson. From this group I authored a Problem Gamblers support group logbook which includes strategies for living a gamble free life.
I do all of this with no funding and on a purely voluntary basis because I am passionate about the harm that was visited on me by pokie machines.

TDB Recommends


  1. Shame on John Key and Steven Joyce and the National Party!
    Shame on corporate welfare!

    Here is some info on the conference centre itself….

    Firstly, it is widely acknowledged by pretty much every independent economic analysis of convention centers you can find that they’re a massive scam that construction companies and politicians perpetuate on taxpayers. The promised benefits never match the tax write-offs and other public costs these companies impose, and in the case of casinos they’re completely wiped out by the negative impacts of the business.

  2. This one has got me totally baffled. Surely Key would have known what sort of kick back he would get from this, I mean his reasoning for doing it was so feeble that only one person in the country thought it was a good idea, Mike Hosking – well, I ask you.
    Then no sooner had he said it came the capitulation. So how come he has listened on this one and had his cloth ears on (still has) on so many other issues, asset sales, sales of land to foreigners, TPPA and not being upfront about what our troops will be doing in Iraq.
    Was this a smokescreen seeing as the Iraqi foreign minister is here at the moment or maybe to take the heat off the Sabin affair.

  3. It’s not shame-on-jonky or his dubious cadre of fellow swindlers ,liars and crooks so much as shame on us for letting the bastard stay in OUR offices doing ever more damage to us on a daily basis .
    There will always be a jonky . Jonky’s are a dime a dozen . Slithering little crooks sniffing around other peoples money are more common than flies on stink . What’s less common is that one person who takes charge and leads good people into lowering themselves down into the sewers to chase out the rats . It’s a nasty job, there will be glory in it but someone has to do it .
    Who is that person ?
    This is what a Leader MUST focus on to help us achieve ; to help identify that one such person should you bump into him or her in the super market .

    Re Nationalise our assets . All of them . Every single one of them . No exceptions .

    Conduct a commission of inquiry into the relationships between past and present NZ politicians and Big Business spanning the last seventy years . Arrest, imprison and asset strip as required under the proceeds of crimes Act . All you bent lawyers with your flat feet currently in the public trough will be familiar with that particular Act .

    Ban ALL foreign Banks from ‘ trading ‘ ( Read manipulating ) here . At least until there’s a sound and robust capital gains tax put in place to make sure people aren’t lured into pimping out the family home ( and by default, the family ) for the pleasures of the above Foreign Owned Banks and sundry parasitic money lenders . And you know who you are, lurking in poverty stricken precincts like cancerous tumours lurk in the lung .

    Wipe all mortgage debt . All of it . Not some of it , most of it or part of it . All of it .
    Some will win big , some will win small , but all will win . The rapacious nature of ‘ property investors’ will be erased , rents will fall and families will win . And Auckland will empty out and become a Detroit, Michigan but without the class .

    Protect , by sound constraints , our currency . We have a country ( therefore currency ) that produces a vital commodity which is that of food . Unfortunately, by virtue of the nature of food production, that makes our currency ( Therefore country ) hugely fragile and vulnerable to manipulation, therefore easily turned into a gambling product for the casino that is the Stock Market . Commodity Trading is a swindle rendered polite by wankers with a keen eye for taking advantage of the ignorances of others .
    Ask jonky about that ? Ask Fay / Richwhite Group about that ? Ask Alan Gibbs about that ? Ask any Kiwi multi millionaire , money fiddler about that ? Lets ask them during that commission of inquiry shall we ?

    Create an advertising free Radio and TV station . Not the rubbery, puff pastry , sugar free , low salt , benign giggle fest that National Radio has become . What was once a strident wee beastie has now had its balls cut off . The dull , prozac-tones of Kathryn Ryan flubbering her way through the day leaving , in her wake , a drugged and snoozing population of people who paint everything half Spanish white . As for the Cake Bakers who now infest the afternoons with their blandness ? I turned on RNZ to travel with a few days ago . It was like finding weevils in the flour . One idiot laughed like he was literally on laughing gas and an other fellow , more boring than Mataura on a damp Sunday and talking about the Internet and tech stuff like chips and networks . OMG ! I came close to singing to myself . That’s how bad it was . Our country is being crashed into the ground by con artists and this ding bat giggled at the other ding bat gusting hot air while also giggling . Pot and Radio fellows ? Not a good mix . Well , yes it is actually, but when appropriate surely .

    Now to gambling .
    I have addictions . I’m addicted to wine , I’m addicted to The Daily Blog . I’m addicted to pursuing attractive women . I’m addicted to cigarettes although I’ve not had a cigarette in years . ( Taking up that pastime again in my dotage is my retirement plan . I can’t afford to retire so I’m aiming for a quick and contemplative death . )

    ‘ Problem ‘ gambling is surely rooted in a need for instant gratification . One feels like shit , one has a ‘ fling ‘ , one feels less like shit . One loses . Feels like shit again … but wait ! ? Just one more little fling .

    The Parasite has completed its life cycle inside its host .

    You think jonky and his minions don’t know about the life cycles of parasites ?

    You think Ron Brierly didn’t understand the implications of moving alcohol into super markets ?

    Regard this piece as a metaphor when thinking Casinos . Just add booze . You might need it .

    Ed Yong . Zombie roaches .

    • Excellent post, I am addicted to your posts, thank god for the Daily Blog.* (I do have a horrid phobia of parasites so the links have had me squirming like a horror show).

  4. “the harm that was visited on me by pokie machines.” Those nasty pokie machines stopped you on the street, held a gun to your head and forced you to throw your money into them….yeah right. Blame your lack of self control on a machine…whatever….

    • Well, that is almost exactly what they are designed to do, prey on the susceptible and the vulnerable. Imagine one of these machines with no coloured lights, no carnival tunes, no flashing lights and bells if you win something, imagine that are just lines with numbers on them, in black and white, no hoo ha about your winnings and losings. Now imagine how many people you might see on them. They are very, very carefully designed to entrap and definitely to win.
      Did you also know that apparently the blackjack table rules have changed so that the house has even more chance to win (its not really chance, though) Once the dealer had to sit on soft 17 now they can continue to draw (that will depend on how many players are sitting on hands I expect) and they have reduced amounts of payouts.
      Casinos and especially pokies are legitimized theft.

        • So, in your worldview, you make no allowances for factors such as gambling addiction? Is everything really so black and white to you, Dan?

          Though if a “donation to a casino is voluntary” – how does government coughing up $100 million-plus of taxpayers’ money to Skycity constitute a “voluntary donation”?

    • @ Dan .

      ” Yea but everyone with even half a brain knows this. Donation to a casino is voluntary. ”

      I think @ Mike The Lefty is talking about you too.

    • @ Harry . Metaphorically, that’s exactly what pokie machines do .

      Do you read ? I know you try to think, poor lamb .

      Try reading material on the psychological influences exerted on the vulnerable mind by gambling institutions ?

      Do you watch TV . Well , yes you do . It’s obvious . Why do you think advertisers spend vast sums of money on trite gibberish to sell junk to people who didn’t know they desperately wanted it until the ad which was often not at all representative of the truth ?

      Now think . Think .

  5. I hope the country is infested with people ‘who think like countryboy’ very soon, so we can wipeout our host government.

      • Um, the definition of infested I saw: “be present (in a place or site) in large numbers, typically so as to cause damage or disease.” mmmm. Countryboy, I am sure you have a heart of gold really.

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