Here’s how the votes look likely to stack up on John Key’s dirty deal under which SkyCity would get a relaxation of casino gambling laws and an increase in their pokie machine numbers in return for building a new convention centre in Auckland.
For: National + United Future = 60
Against: Greens + Labour + Maori + Mana + NZ First = 60
That leaves just one vote to decide whether the dirty deal goes ahead or is dead in the water. That vote belongs to my old sparring partner from our days on the Auckland City Council, John Banks, who is now the ACT Party’s sole MP.
Banks was a National Party MP back in 1999, and here’s what he had to say in Parliament then on legislation about the extension of casino gambling:
I say to the member who spoke previously that I do not care what some rich wide-boy who might meet our ambassador next week thinks about what he can spend his money on. If he wants to invest in the misery of the lives of the people of New Zealand, then our ambassador should tell that wide boy to stay on his ranch somewhere out West in the United States of America, because we do not want his money.
But the casinos want the money of the most vulnerable people. It appals me that the Tainui tribe want to invest in a casino to perpetrate the misery of their people. I salute Tuku Morgan and his courageous stand. Is it not significant that every Maori member of Parliament in this House has similar views to myself on this issue because he or she knows the habits that these dens of gambling – euphemistically called “casino entertainment centres” – wreak on the vulnerable?
Go and watch the Polynesian-Maori office cleaners at 2 o’clock in the morning in the Auckland gambling den, to see what point I am making. Witness what they are doing with the livelihood of their families.
That’s pretty strong stuff from Banksie. I just hope the political pressure he will undoubtedly come under from his confidence and supply partners, not to mention the $15,000 donation he received from SkyCity for his failed 2010 Mayoral campaign, doesn’t persuade him to resile from the principled stand on casino gambling he took back in 1999.