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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rising lid

Excellent blog post by Will de Cleene - as an insider to teenage gambling and to the inside of Sky City Auckland. I find myself largely in agreement with the idea that casinos per se are acceptable as hospitality venues, but as long as they target people who can't afford it they will always be regarded as causing more social harm than social good (of the business and employment they create).

Auckland, for example back in the 90s before it opened, really did lack the type of 24/7 entertainment destination the city should have had. As a sort of anchor tenant for the CBD, Sky City has functioned as part of a greater urban revitalisation that began in the mid 1990s. That history has been tarnished somewhat by the inevitable social corollary of a large casino - all around the Sky City block are now pawn shops and porn shops (brothels).

Amid the crony capitalist antics of the Tourism Minister/PM regarding offering Sky City a sweetheart deal over a convention centre for hundreds more pokie machines I am reminded of how Sky City came to be. The fact is the entire process was one bit of crony capitalist back-scratching, shoulder-tapping after another at all points of the governmental compass.

Brierley Investments started off with a casino plan featuring a gawdawful generic tower thing (exactly what we have now) for a site at the top end of Symonds St at the top of Grafton Gulley. That was the early 90s. But that site was too far away from the CBD, so Brierley's did a deal with the Council (might have been both Auckland City and the Regional Council) to swap that block with an inner city block owned by local government that was designated for a bus terminal (the current site). That is why a bus terminal is part of the complex. That original site swap deal was just the first private-public partnership-type arrangement. That was the start. Sky City donations to political parties and candidates continues to this day and ensures the wheels keep spinning in their favour. They gave the church across the road enough for a new roof in the hope that would placate them - and I haven't heard or seen any anti-casino rhetoric from St Matthews of late. The House will always win it seems.

So nothing much has changed over the years: Sky City still has a casino gambling monopoly in Auckland, local and central government are being bought off fairly cheaply by the company, the casino wants to add more and more slots, and the punters keep pumping their dough into them...


At 25/4/12 8:59 pm, Blogger countryboy said...

Excellent Tim . The greedy , soulless bastards !


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