Brian Edwards Media

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says Christchurch Casino could re-open on different site. Why bother?

‘Hundreds of staff at the quake-damaged Christchurch casino, who have been given the stark choice of taking redundancy or unpaid leave, were given a small ray of hope by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee who indicated the business could reopen. Casino licences were geographically specific, but Mr Brownlee said the Earthquake Recovery Bill could give the flexibility for the premises to move.’  New Zealand Herald 2/4/2011

If you were one of the 500 casino employees whose livelihood is at stake you would have regarded this story as good news. I understand that. But my reaction to the story was that the best place to move this and every other casino in the country was to anywhere but here. Yes, a lot of people would be looking for work, but a far greater number of lives would be saved from destruction and despair.

My view on casinos has not changed since I wrote this intro to a Top of the Morning programme 15 years ago:

Went to the opening of the casino on Thursday. I didn’t really want to go, but sheer nosiness and the fact that She Who Must Be Obeyed had a wonderful new dress, which just begged to be seen by 3,000 other people, won the day.

 It’s hard to find precisely the right word to describe the evening, the ‘mot juste’ as the French, who have now stopped nuclear testing and may be referred to again in civilised society, say. ‘Disappointing’ springs to mind, along with ‘dreary, dull, drab, tasteless, tacky, sickening and stupid’.

On the plus side, the parking was excellent, the street entertainments were fun and everyone who works for the casino has been taught to wish you a very nice evening every time you made eye-contact.  

The trouble started when the multitudes assembled in the gaming room had to wait three quarters of an hour for the official ceremony to begin. True we were served cheap champagne and an assortment of deep-fried disasters, but even in a room touted as being the size of a rugby pitch, there’s only so much air to go round. For the record, the gaming room is as big as a rugby pitch and with a similar degree of character and style.

But it was when the speeches began that I, and I suspect hundreds more, started to get a queasy feeling in the stomach. The Americans had failed to master Maori pronunciation to a degree that left most of us examining the tops of our shoes; Brierley’s Paul Collins, who may well be New Zealand’s worst public speaker, made a speech that was as incomprehensible as it was interminable;

Jim Bolger opted for a campaign speech, in which the casino became a symbol of economic recovery and job creation;  only Cath Tizard was mercifully short and to the point.

What we learned from all these speeches was that the casino was a shrine, a temple, a hallowed place of such historical significance that it was surprising there were not three wise men clamouring at the entrance, offering Harrahs and Brierley gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It’s a bloody casino for heaven’s sake, a saloon, a gambling den, a place for mugs to do their dough. The people behind it aren’t saints, they’re hard-nosed businessmen who know that there’s no better gamble than greed and stupidity, no more certain truth than that ‘the house always wins’. The casino is just an upmarket branch of the TAB. But the odds are probably worse, and, if the rest of the world’s casinos are anything to go by, it won’t be upmarket very long either.

And as for all the good it’s going to do for Auckland, international studies show that casinos attract money to resorts, but if you put a casino in a major town or city, it bleeds the local economy dry. It’s the locals who patronise the casino and the disposable dollar goes there and not to the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. And watch for the bankruptcies, the foreclosures, the business failures. You don’t have to look far. It’s already happening in Christchurch.

So I see the casino as a blight on the Auckland landscape, an architectural and cultural monstrosity. What on earth were our Prime Minister and Governor General doing there? What on earth was I doing there?

Five weeks later I was back on the subject of casinos again. I’d been to see the movie Casino starring Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci and couldn’t resist having another go:

The film gives an interesting insight into the mentality of casino owners and operators. They’re there to win, folks, and you, the mugs, are there to lose everything, preferably including your shirt. That’s how they like it, and that’s how everything in the casino, from the pokies to the roulette tables, is designed.

No mystery about it really, and nothing particularly sinister. It’s just a matter of mathematics and probabilities.  The individual punter can win, of course, but the generic punter always loses. That’s the joy of running a casino, isn’t it, that the house never really loses; punter A’s winnings are ultimately paid, not by the casino, but by punter B.

Six months later I was back at the casino to see Dionne Warwick perform  at the grand opening of the new Sky theatre:

And ‘grand’  is the word. Everybody who was anybody was there, and a few people who weren’t. Black tie. Men in their penguin suits; women in their ‘see and be seen’. I’m told by my female friends that men never look more handsome than when they’re wearing a dinner suit: black is so slimming and there’s just that hint of uniform.

Well, it was pink champagne and canapés and networking and just a hint of ‘mwa mwa’ and ‘darling, darling’ and we all headed into the theatre. Plain, modern, comfortable and, as we were about to discover, state of the art in terms of sound, lighting and special effects. An asset to the performing arts in Auckland, no doubt.

During nibbles and champagne after the show I was bailed up by a member of the Casino Authority who berated me for my criticisms of his baby. If I didn’t like the place, why did I come? Was it for the free drinks?

Well, sunshine, you can’t talk about it, if you haven’t seen it. And I withdraw not one syllable. Your casino will suck the life blood out of this city. But it will not be your blood or mine, but the blood of the poor.

As we walked through the gaming room in our tuxes and evening dresses on the way to and from the theatre, we were surrounded by people whose most evident defining characteristic was their poverty. There was a predominance of Maori, Polynesian and Asian faces. It is a truism that those who gamble are invariably those who can least afford to gamble. The sole function, the sole purpose of the casino is to make money for the already wealthy, while entrenching the already poor further in their poverty, by offering them false hope of escape from that poverty. And in that, the casino differs very little from the TAB, Lotto, Scratch Kiwi and the rest.

As we went down in the lift, we were surrounded by people heading home after a night on the pokies, or the blackjack tables or the wheel. Funny thing – none of them were smiling.

At the end of the evening I concluded what I had concluded before, that as New Zealanders we have nothing to learn and nothing to gain from the culture of Las Vegas, a culture corrupt to the very core of its black heart.

Hope I haven’t overstated the case.

It would be true to say that, as well as being a useful landmark for tourists,  the Sky City Casino now enjoys iconic status in Auckland.  In a physical sense, even I would miss it. And in the end it isn’t the building that is the real villain. The real villains are the pokie machines whose addictive power has ruined so many lives and destroyed so many families. And they are everywhere.

I feel a campaign coming on.

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40 Comments:

  1. A couple of years back I went into the Christchurch Casino to have ‘nosey’ – the first time I’d ever been in any casino. I very quickly came to the conclusion that I was in a truly evil place. I was even more convinced of this when one of the group I was with (a highly qualified professional) won several hundred dollars on a pokie. The rest of us tried to persuade this person to quit while ahead. I was gobsmacked to see the glazed look in the eyes, and an inability to listen to reason. We gave up and left our companion to continue. Needless to say, when we caught up with this person the following morning, the entire winnings had been lost (surprise, surprise). If this person was unable to see reason and that the ‘dice was loaded’ what hope is there for the less educated/more desperate? On the basis of this experience I agree with you 100%, regardless of the inevitable cries from the libertarians amongst us.

    BE: Yes, the seemingly innocent pokie is the most dangerous thing in the casino. It’s not merely programmed to ensure that you lose, it’s programmed to keep you betting through the partial reinforcement of the occasional win, and the sound/vision excitement which it offers.

  2. Before we all work ourselves up into a frenzy of indignation about casino operators perhaps we should consider other ‘evil’ businesses. Is a casino operator worse than a supplier of alcohol and tobaco, both products that have destroyed lives?

    Should we be concerned about companies that exploit slave labour, or at best low price labour in third world countries? Pehaps as consumers of these products we should examine our own ethics.

    What about the global banking industry that has destroyed so many lives and where executives continue to take obscene bonuses? What about international companies that arrange their affairs so that they pay virtualy nothing in tax in the countries in which they operate? And on a smaller scale we have airlines who charge a fee for the use of credit cards when there is no alternative payment method?

    I have no time for casinos or those who run. There are however many organisation with whom I have to deal and put a clothes peg on my nose while dealing with them. Morality and business are not terms that go together notwithstanding the lip service paid by business leaders to the word. In the end the sole purpose of a business is to make money for its shareholders.

    I tolerate this but sadly recognise that it is the price I pay for living in a reasonably free society. I cannot see the point of singling out casinos for my disapproval. People have choices ande if they choose to throw their money away in a casino who am I to stop them unless I am prepared to see all forms of discretioanry spending regulated.

    BE: It’s true that there are many other social evils. But this sort of argument tends to lead to people doing nothing about any of them. It’s also possible to protest or take action in more than one cause. Once a casino is there, it is of course difficult to remove. So the real villains in this picture are the people who sanctioned the building of a casino in your/my city in the first place.

  3. I’ve been into a casino once, out of curiosity. I found it incredible that people chose to spend time in such a depressing place. I heartily agree with you Brian, let the casino stay closed.

    BE: People, often including mothers of young children, stay there because they desperately hope that they will win enough money to help deal with their finanial problems, and because they very quickly become addicted to the machines.

  4. @ Ben – how is NZ a “reasonably free society” if “[t]here are, however, many organisations with whom [you] have to deal and put a clothes peg on [your] nose while dealing with them”?

    If we are not “concerned about companies that exploit slave labour, or at best low price labour in third world countries”, then our moral compass is indeed absent. And no, casinos are not worse than tobacco corporations, which is why Hone Harawira has pushed the progressive elimination of tobacco from NZ.

    Finally Ben, it is not you who ‘pays the price’ of this ersatz ‘free society’ you espouse. It is the desperate poor and deluded punters who pay (not to mention the exploited casino staff).

    Ban casinos, and make pokies strictly ‘no-payout’ (ie the machines can be played for a coin, but don’t pay anything – just an amusement game then).

  5. I’ve been to the Christchurch Casino once. I’d come up from Dunedin to the big smoke with my boss – and he was out to impress…he promptly lost a grand on the Black Jack table in 5 minutes.
    I wasn’t impressed, he wasn’t impressive…and we left.
    The wallpaper was ugly, the mood was ugly…good riddance to the leech in the middle of a great city…however temporary that absence may be.

  6. I have also been to the CHCH casino and have been to a few other casinos.Never have I lost more than $20 or have I gambled a total of more than $20.00.It was a fun night out (we had a meal and enjoyed the bar entertainment).
    Casinos are not the problem it is an inability to control the gambling of some people who frequent casinos.I have no doubt if the casinos were closed the problem gamblers would continue to spend their money at other gambling venues.Prohibition has never worked.Greater regulation and with it a greater control of gamblers ability to spend outrageous sums of money.The man who lost $1000 in 5 minutes beggars belief.

    BE: You really can’t separate the casinos from the problem any more than you can separate the sports clubs and pubs with pokie machines from the problem. The pokie machine is a uniquely addictive form of gambling. It is also deceptive becasue of the relatively small amounts that are invested at each play. I can say without any exaggeration that pokie machines run lives and families. The fact that you, and I, can spend 20 bucks and walk away is about as relevant as our saying we can’t understand why alcoholics don’t stop drinking after two beers or, for that matter, smokers after one cigarette. They’are all addicts.

  7. It isn’t just casinos that depress me, although they are a unique experience for anyone who wants to see how low into automatism humanity can sink. I was working in a pub a few years back on Easter Sunday and a woman rang and asked was our pokie room open. I replied that it wasn’t, as we were only allowed to sell liquor to those on the premises for the purposes of dining, as per the Sale of Liquor Act, and therefore we didn’t open the pokies. She roundly abused me for five minutes before demanding to know how she was going to spend the day. I suggested she might like to spend it with her family…

  8. My few visits to the Casino have been with my wife where she spends her $20 for fun. I spend my time just watching the players and if the science of body talk means anything then no player is happy. They look miserable to me. Perhaps the exception would be the small groups, there for a short while, and socialising and giggling while spending a bit on the side. I think that the window-lessness is to stop players (mugs) from noticing the passage of time.

    BE “I think that the window-lessness is to stop players (mugs) from noticing the passage of time.” Could well be. Most of the players are in a trance-like state anyway.

  9. Five weeks later I was back on the subject of casinos again. I’d been to see the movie Casino starring Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci and couldn’t resist having another go

    Not surprised you were inspired to go further on the subject after seeing ‘Casino’. It’s a good movie, really good movie – one of my favourites.

    But it doesn’t inspire a love of the gambling industry.

  10. Brian, casinos are the least of our worries if the BSA Holmes decision is indicative of commercial ‘standards’ these days. The BSA says that Holmes interview with Helen Kelly did not breach fairness standards, despite being ‘openly biased’ and ‘unnecessarily agressive’ displaying ‘active contempt’ because Holmes was ‘expressing his personal opinion’ and he has a right to his ‘freedom of expression’? Seems the management of both Skycity and TVNZ are interchangeable these days?

  11. BE: People, often including mothers of young children, stay there because they desperately hope that they will win enough money to help deal with their finanial problems, and because they very quickly become addicted to the machines.

    Agreed. I’ve seen it, and include the single lonely elderly person in that to. Mind you there is an upside to all this. The penny millionaire criminals also frequent the casinos with regularity – often “en masse” which is a good thing because at least the police know where to find them.

    Isn’t it amazing how you can go into a casino, get into the gaming halls and there are few windows and few clocks!!!!!

  12. I remember my horror when a friend took me to the Crown casino in Melbourne and we noticed that some of the machines had eftpos/credit card slots instead of coin slots. It was so gross we left.

  13. BE: People, often including mothers of young children, stay there because they desperately hope that they will win enough money to help deal with their finanial problems, and because they very quickly become addicted to the machines.

    Perhaps it is either that or stand around Packe Street or Bishop Street or Manchester Street North (since they are outside the “red” zone (??)) of an evening wearing not very much. When it comes to trying to make a dollar, whom should we pity (if that is the right word)?

  14. IN all fairness and regardless of my dislike for casinos generally, could I point out the following:

    Tina: Those slots are for membership points reward cards, not credit/Eftpos cards.

    Dave: No there aren’t many clocks on the walls, but each machine has a clock display on it.

  15. I hate casinos. I watched my brother lose the business he and his wife had worked all hours of the day for for many years, his marriage, their property, his relationships with his children, his siblings, become bankrupt, and lose the life savings of his elderly mother all on those bloody pokie machines. My brother is a nice guy, very intelligent, and yet he still became addicted. The devastation to our family was catastrophic.

  16. BE: The fact that you, and I, can spend 20 bucks and walk away is about as relevant as our saying we can’t understand why alcoholics don’t stop drinking after two beers or, for that matter, smokers after one cigarette. They’are all addicts.

    Yet we don’t ban alcohol because of alcoholics, or smoking either, although a case can be made for banning both. Making drugs illegal hasn’t eliminated them as a massive social problem either, not that I think they should be legalised.

    Why penalise the vast majority of people due to the problems of a few. The phrase “Nanny state” comes to mind!

    The problems are exaggerated (has Auckland been bled dry as predicted?) – but if not, surely the answer is some sort of ID / credit checking / spending limit system, not banning or closing down.

    BE: I don’t think I advocated banning casinos. I pointed to the massive social damage they did. There was a time when we didn’t have casinos in New Zealand. But it was decided to legalise this sort of gambling venue and successive governments have issued licences for new casinos in different parts of the country while spending bugger all on gambling education or the rehabilitation of addicted gamblers.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘the vast majority of people’. Do you have some research to indicate that of the thousands of people sitting in front of pokies day and night the ‘vast majority’ receive no social harm from gambling and neither do their families? Go and have another look.

    There is, as you say, a strong argument for banning tobacco products, because every smoker’s health is damaged by smoking and large numbers die. The tobacco companies make profits from selling a lethal product which worldwide kills millions of people. Using your criteria of ‘the vast majority’, there would seem to be very good reason for banning the sale of tobacco products. Governments don’t do it because of the huge revenue it brings them.

    Alcohol is a different story. A majority, if not ‘the vast majority’ of Kiwis probably do drink responsibly. Banning alcohol would have the effect of penalising the majority for the irresponsibility of the minority.

    Your general approach begs the question ‘Why ban anything?’ If the criterion for banning is that ‘the vast majority’ of people engage responsibly in an activity, then why should that majority be prevented from doing it, because a minority of idiots don’t or can’t do it responsibly?

    So you devoted your comment to arguing against a proposition I hadn’t made, then capped it off by referring to the ‘Nanny state’, the best possible evidence, along with decrying things as ‘PC”, that the writer really hasn’t got an argument.

  17. My [slightly long-winded] 2c:

    As a poker player, I do occasionally pop into the Auckland casino. The slot machines (or, rather, the people at them) are truly depressing, especially in the wee hours of the morning.

    The house games like roulette and blackjack seem a little bit more light-hearted — people tend to go in for a good time with friends, expecting to lose*. New Zealand casinos also allow card counting, unlike Las Vegas and many other international gambling destinations.

    The pokies, on the other hand aren’t social… aren’t even entertaining. They’re basically mechanical heroin with bells and lights.

    Now, I don’t touch the house games or the slots, and go to the poker room, which is a different kettle of fish as far as rules and revenue is concerned (the casino charges table fees / per-hand rake to cover the costs of dealers, but does not participate in the games themselves) and I find that although a few poker players might dabble in blackjack as well, most people are well aware of what they’re doing, what they can afford to lose, the value of the $5 chip they’re holding in their hand, etc.

    I’m just sharing what I find to be distasteful about casinos. Personally, while not a libertarian, I’m also not really in favour of telling people what’s “best for them” in terms of what they spend their money on, what they eat, what they do in their spare time, etc.

    I’d attack the casino issue from a different angle: Poker games and house games are simple enough that the odds, stakes and rules can be printed on a small card and even the table-top itself. There is also a dealer present to advise players of rules/odds. Slot machines, on the other hand, are notoriously vague and difficult to audit. They’re unattended and can easily be programmed to cheat players out of money above and beyond the advertised odds.

    Could a small, boutique casino offering only standard house games and poker be a possible compromise?

    Again, just my 2c, and I probably haven’t thought through all the angles.

    Oh, look, 3 cherries! My 2c just netted me $10! I guess I’ll stick it all in this here machine again….

    * I don’t go into the high rollers rooms, of course, though I have heard stories. I’m sure fortunes are lost regularly. I don’t think anybody goes hungry afterwards, though… I’m prepared to be corrected.

  18. A few years ago I visited Jupiters casino in Surfers with a few local friends. Got a bucket of twenty dollars worth of tokens and started playing the pokies. I lost a few dollars, then won a few dollars, then lost a few more. After about five minutes I was marginally ahead but I was extremely bored with the ritual and gave my bucket to my appreciative if not surprised friend. My first and only casino visit. Must be something to do with genes.

    BE: Well, you’re clearly not an addictive personality. Actually, if you talk to compulsive gamblers, they’ll tell you that what keeps them there isn’t the prospect of winning. If it were, they’d walk away when they won big or lost big. The adrenalin rush which compulsive gamblers get has more to do with playing the game than with winning. Or so I understand.

  19. My comment hasn’t shown up, and if I try to re-send, it tells me it’s a duplicate. Did I get accidentally filtered as spam? Should I just be more patient? :)

    (I’ve saved it offline in case I need to resubmit.. it took a while to write!)

    BE: Thanks Kim. We have had quite a few comments diverted to spam recently. Not entirely sure of the reasons. We’re checking it out. You’ll see that your comments are now there.

  20. BE: The adrenalin rush which compulsive gamblers get has more to do with playing the game than with winning. Or so I understand.

    Don’t know about that BE. One can feel truly miserable trudging off home after loosing $900 and suffering nightmares of spinning reels accompanied by irritating electronic sounds. Waking up and realising it was just a dream adds insult to injury.

    Winning $900 or more gives one a bigger high than winning features or listening to victory tunes. It seems it is the money that matters and there is very little of that to be got from this form of gambling, which as you say is addictive. I’m speaking from eperience, I am ashamed to say. Nowadays I stay well clear of these ghastly places. They should be as illegal as P AND HEROIN.

    BE: Appreciate your comment, Edward. My sources in Gamblers Anonymous style organisations tell me that pokie players experience the high at the time they’re playing whether they’re winning or losing. I don’t doubt that depression will follow a big loss and temporary elation a big win. ‘Temporary’ because it won’t be long before those winnings are gone. The addictive gambler will also have to deal with the financial crises that his/her activity inevitable invites and the lying and deception necessary to conceal their addiction and the state of their indebtedness from their partner, family and friends.

  21. I agree with you there Brian. A friend with a scratchie addiction won 100,000 a couple of years ago. When I heard about her win I said that now she wouldn’t have to buy any more tickets. To the contrary she now had more cash to indulge her habit. Her partner said that it would all be gone in a couple of years. He was right. I do know a little of the of the rush of a big win. Many years ago my regular Lotto lucky dip won me $10,000. Every week thereafter I expected to do the same again . It took a few weeks to get the message. The only time I have bought a Lotto ticket for years was the recent one when half the takings went to Christchurch

  22. “Your general approach begs the question ‘Why ban anything?”

    Precisely – and that still begs the question: WHO should do the banning?

    Treacherous waters, Brian.

    BE: Well ‘banning’ is just another way of expressing ‘making illegal’. In that sense a significant part of our law is about banning things. Making law is the role of Parliament. I can’t really see any difficulty with that.

  23. Walk inside the Auckland casino, and you enter a den of iniquity. Semblance of human-beings; hunched and slothful, eyes glazed staring blank-faced at the pokie screens. And where there is absolutely no relief from this deadening, coarsening, dehumanizing barrage of the carousel-type music that keeps the players transfixed and imprisoned. Who are these enablers that offer this, to ensnare the weak by their insidious and addictive poison; passing it off in the guise of glamorous entertainment?

    A gathering place of wiry, seedy-looking Asians slumped and cross-legged; fat Maoris and Islanders, their ginormpus butts spilling off the stools. You can’t help but notice their dirty sneaker shoes and grubby track suit pants, and hair all unkempt. Move across to the blackjack tables (mainly, Asians) and the scene replicates itself. Same as at the roulette tables.

    For all the bleak colour and mechanical noise, the place somehow screams a depressing silence of human desolation, social detachment, personal remoteness and hopelessness. A desultory place of creeping human misery and abandoned hope. And Brownlee wants to resurrect that in Christchurch?

  24. “Making law is the role of Parliament. I can’t really see any difficulty with that”

    I respectfully suggest that you wouldn’t be nearly so sanguine if Parliament set about banning something You didn’t want banned*.

    —————–
    * not that I place casinos in that category! :)

  25. And now, just in case anyone who has been to the Auckland casine has any money left, a ten-storey “pleasure palace” (brothel?) opposite the Auckland casino. What is is with that market if it isn’t that those business owners assume a big “L” stamped on the foreheads of their customers/clients. Tobacco companies view their customers in the same way. Making money is important, not how you make it. Do customers of such businesses have any notion that this is how they are viewed by these businesses? I have always assumed not because personal pride would otherwise act against continuing the relationship.

  26. BE: Appreciate your comment, Edward. My sources in Gamblers Anonymous style organisations tell me that pokie players experience the high at the time they’re playing whether they’re winning or losing.

    I would agree with that Brian, but the so called high from filling your pants while loosing big time is rather perverse and short lived, before it turns into long lasting regret. Then next time one zombies out infront of their favourite machine they convince themself that it’s to make good their loss. Money is answerable to all sorts of bad things.

  27. I too was at the Casino’s opening night – the only time I have ventured onto the floor. I have since looked down into the pit on the way to and from the theatre, and it makes me shudder. The place hoovers a million dollars a day out of Auckland, and gives back next to nothing.

    Yes the casino sponsors Starlight Symphony, yes it gives money to Problem Gambling and a few other things, and let’s not forget the New Year’s fireworks (which have become more underwhelming every year). But the employment it boasts of creating is all at the lowest wages it can pay.

    And now it wants to take over the air above that block of Federal Street, having already bought the air above St Matthew In The City. The casino owners are cunning, clever, and not to be trusted. Nor are the officials – elected and career – who ‘enable’ it all.

    These are pretty much the same people enabling Auckland to ”benefit from a 10 storey brothel.

    City fathers of an earlier time gave us treasures like Cornwall and Meyers Parks, The Dilworth and Chisholm Whitney Trusts and what is now Government House. In years to come I doubt either the casino or shiny tower full of interactive pokies will be regarded as similar treasures.

  28. I guess everyone knows the reason why there are no windows in the gambling halls of a casino? No, this is NOT a joke! The reason is so as the occupants don’t become distracted by what time of day (or night) it might be and, oblivious to the time, they’ll just keep on playing.

    More positively, Samoa is about to get their first casino. “What is so positive about that?”, I hear you ask! This announcment came just days ago – it was made by Samoa’s Prime Minister who, like John Key, is also the Minister of Tourism in Samoa. There ends the similarities though. The Samoan government has passed the Casino and Gambling Act – as I understand it, this act means that only overseas guests or holders of foreign passports will be able to gamble at a Samoan casino.

    I feel lots of questions coming on! Who is going to want to travel to Samoa to gamble, and why? Is this the sort of regulation we want in NZ? How realistic are such rules? Will those rules even work in Samoa?

  29. I cant see the point in banning (or making illegal)The addicted participants will find another venue to lose their money.Although I agree that problem gamblers need to have their behaviour moderated, I dont see prohibition as a solution.

  30. pjr — good point. Problem gambling (and in particular pokies, which my previous rant was about) is sad, but it’s possible that things would become worse if regulated casinos are exchanged for unregulated blackmarket/underground “gambling dens”.

    Would that really happen, though? I’m of two minds about it.

    On one hand: We only have a tiny handful of casinos in New Zealand as it is. Gambling isn’t a social norm like alcohol or prostitution (to take two popular examples of failed prohibition).

    On another hand, and thinking wider than casinos for a minute…
    Most towns have pokies in sports bars and taverns. I think gambling addicts frequent these just as much (if not more, given their wider distribution in the country) than casinos. Are these perceived to be equally harmful? If the police came and confiscate them one day, what would happen?

    pjr’s point about prohibition is worth remembering, either way.

    It’s also worth noting that Brian isn’t really arguing for “banning casinos”. Without a license, the Christchurch casino currently can’t be re-opened. Brownlee is wondering whether he can use some emergency-earthquake-power magic to change that.
    Without a license, NZ casinos are “illegal” by default. So if anything, Brian is simply defending the status quo of a very conservative approach to granting casino licenses.

  31. I tipped some time ago, courtesy of this blogsite, that the evil Chow brothers, and the mysterious demolition of the Palace Hotel, boded no good for our community. And so it has proved.
    These two pimps and their “investors” should stay in Wellington where they belong. And I don’t trust our Councils and bureaucrats in this matter either.

    You read it here first.

  32. A great scene from Casino sticks in my mind. Robert DeNiro is chewing out a new pit boss after a session in which the “house” lost a lot of money. The pit boss defends himself by pointing out that the nature of gambling means that sometimes the punters win. Seems reasonable to me, the viewer. Surely DeNiro will accept that defence. Instead he pauses a long time. Does some of those marvellous DeNiro facial gymnastics. Then …. he explodes! “Don’t you ever say that to me!!” he rants. Gee, it must be a great movie, because this doesn’t make it into IMDB’s extensive “memorable quotes” section.

    Another little story, apropos of nothing except the mention of Brierley and Paul Collins. Mid 80s. Eating alone after working late at the old California grill in Willis Street. Paul Collins and another suit are in the next booth, talking business. “We pitch the takeover to the shareholders” … mumble mumble. Damn, can’t quite make it out because of the music. I must admit I was annoyed because I sensed the opportunity to, well, let’s just say obtain some business intelligence that wasn’t public knowledge. If we think of the sharemarket as a kind of casino … another point of relevance.

    This continues for some time.

    Eventually the tape runs out. I can now tune in to the conversation and eavesdrop in earnest. Paul Collins is saying to his colleague. “No, I’d play Kirwan on the right wing, and switch Tuigamala between left wing and centre where he could really keep their defence honest…”

  33. Wellington may have thrown up the Chows but so far have resisted attempts to have a casino.

  34. Casino’s along with pokie machines should not be operating in NZ let alone Christchurch. As you rightly so point out, for the punter, the outcome will most definately lead to destruction and despair, for the owner – big fat profits by any means necessary. The house ALWAYS wins, that is why these people have these businesses and they have no problem with taking any bet, no matter the situation or consequences. Morality is left at the door because these establishment do not have any.

    I despise them. These establishments do nothing to enhance society or peoples lives. Infact, they do a lot to undermine them both.

  35. Have you heard of the “People Before Pokies” campaign? Its efforts are not much focused on the casino, but it could really help minimise the harms of problem gambling. You could also check out the facebook group:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/People-Before-Pokies/150972231623152

  36. I recall that scene Bill. The scene made the point that in a casino it was almost numerically impossible to win big, and if two customers win big in a row, there is definitely a scam going on.

    Says it all about Casinos really.

  37. I assume on the opening night of this brothel you and Ms Callingham will be there as part of the Auckland glitterati sipping pink champagne?

    I actually find the concept of a 10 storey knocking quite intriguing? Will it be like a department store?

    First floor, bondage; going up! Second floor, discipline; going up, and so on with necrophelia in the lower ground floor.

    Pardon my coarseness in lowering the tone of your blog.

  38. Thanks for saying so eloquently and so consistently what I have privately thought of ever since the notion of casinos in NZ was launched many years ago. Their simple existence sticks in my craw and leaves me with a queasy stomach.

    My opinions also drag me into a substantial field of family disloyalty. The architect of the Sky City Casino is my cousin and my brother is a current member of the board of Sky City. Those two inconvenient facts don’t modify my contempt for these sleazy dens one iota.

  39. Thanks for this article Brian. @Mike Moller – I agree with your comment.

    Casino’s are not “entertainment” venues. They are designed to make maximum profit, mostly from Kiwis, that goes overseas. Most of the profit is made from people who have gambling problems.

    I wish we could get rid of all seven casino’s in New Zealand or at the very least, every pokie machine in New Zealand. Sadly, I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

  40. It pays to remember that the Casino was originally going to be built in upper Symonds Street, but in yet another “deal”, it was transferred to the highest, most visible, prime piece of land in the heart of the CBD. That rotten institution is actually a SYMBOL of Auckland. “Queasy” barely describes how that makes one feel.

    And now we have the dastardly Chow Brothers wanting build a 10-storey brothel just over the road, on an equally high, equally visible, equally prime piece of the CBD. Wake up, Auckland !
    ————————–
    (Memo Wellington: please keep the Chow brothers, we don’t need them)