Did John Banks ask SkyCity to Donate Anonymously
To His Mayoral Campaign?
By Hamish McConnochie
evidence has come to light which offers a motive for why
John Banks may have asked SkyCity to have donated
anonymously to his campaign – namely he didn’t want to be
seen to be a hypocrite during the Mayoral election
And did Mayoral Candidate John Banks make a
convention centre for Auckland an election commitment to
give himself wriggle room to change his position on the
pokies after the election?
The new evidence consists
of a combination of a little-seen Youtube video posted
during the Mayoral campaign (around the time of the
anonymous donations from Kim Dotcom), John Banks strident
opposition to Casinos expressed in 1997, SkyCity’s record in
making political donations (it didn’t before 2010), and the
timing of Prime Minister John Key’s intervention in the
National Convention Centre policy debate.
Over the past
week John Banks has been rocked by claims from millionaire
MegaUpload founder and alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom
that he solicited an anonymous donation by asking for a
$50,000 donation to be split into two $25,000 cheques.
John Banks’ $15,000 anonymous donation from SkyCity was
likely made at around the same time.
As yet SkyCity has
not revealed why it made an anonymous donation to John
Banks, but made a public one to Len Brown (who was
subsequently elected as Auckland Supercity
John Banks Promises To Back A Convention
Centre For Auckland
In a rarely seen YouTube
video dated a month before the donation to Kim Dotcom, Banks
states that he is “totally committed to bringing an
international convention and conference centre to Auckland”.
The video is dated May 11 2010, 6 months before the
postal ballot Auckland Council election. At the time of
posting this article the video has had less than 200
Banks has a vision that a national convention centre would
be built in Auckland on its waterfront as a part of the
masterplanned [sic] development of the Auckland waterfront.
John’s vision is that this is ideally located on Bledisloe
Wharf, when land is progressively released back to the
Auckland public by the Ports of Auckland Ltd. A national
convention centre would be a huge economic driver that would
create jobs in accomodation, [sic] hospitality, tourism and
more. Any such convention centre would require Government
assistance for the bulk of the funding.” –
John Banks – 2010
comments about the convention centre come just 84 seconds
into the campaign video. See John
Banks Mayoral Youtube Campaign Page – video title – John Banks on economic
development and job creation.
Who Knew About
The PM’s Pokies Convention Centre Subsidy
By May 2010, SkyCity was well aware of the
convention centre proposal which the Government had put out
for consultation in March 2010. (Ref: TVNZ)
And by then Prime Minister
John Key’s idea of a gambling rules change to sweeten the
deal was also already on the table.
According to news
reports the Government and Auckland City Council launched a
feasibility study for a National Convention Centre in August
2009. Prime Minister John Key dined with SkyCity “bosses”
in November of that year. And in April 2012 official papers
were released showing that John Key intervened in the policy
development process at the end of 2009.
“Official papers released by Labour on
Thursday show John Key told officials in 2009 to stop work
on the development of an Auckland Convention Centre, and to
wait for a SkyCity proposal – details the party interprets
as Mr Key’s “fingerprints” on the deal.” – Radio NZ 19 April
We do not know the date that SkyCity
made its $15,000 donation as that detail is not sought in
the expenses and donation returns that candidates are
required to complete.
However we do know that the twin
cheques deposited in a Queenstown bank branch from Megastuff
limited are dated 9 June 2010 less than a month after the
video of Banks was posted to Youtube.
Donations Are Not Business As Usual For
SkyCity did not donate to Banks’ 2007
Auckland City mayoral campaign, and its spokesperson Brodie
Stewart said his understanding was that the Casino did not
have a policy of donating to mayoral candidates – despite
SkyCity general counsel Peter Treacy having
said his company made donations to political campaigns
“to facilitate the democratic process” in 2010.
Stewart told Scoop that at this stage SkyCity was not
planning on donating to mayoral candidates at next year’s
Therefore, on the face of it, SkyCity’s
donations appear to have been motivated by an intention to
help smooth the way for their convention centre
Did Banks Or Brown Meet With SkyCity In
Which begs the question did SkyCity meet
with Banks and Brown at some point in 2010. Perhaps to
“pitch” their convention centre proposal to the candidates.
A personal meeting with someone from the campaign teams
would seem likely given the size of the donations.
around the “anonymity” claims made in relation to the casino
company’s donation to Banks have centred around the fact
that SkyCity’s $15,000 donation to Brown was publicly
declared, while Banks’ $15,000 donation was
Any meeting between
Banks and SkyCity is relevant as if such a meeting did
occur, Banks would have had an opportunity to request that
any donation made to his campaign be made anonymously, as he
is accused of doing by Kim
Meanwhile Banks prior
anti-casino stance (expressed in 1997) may have provided a
reason for Banks to make such a request – to avoid being
accused of hypocrisy during the campaign period.
“They’re wideboys, they’re flashboys,
they’re big boys and they can take it,” Banks said in 1997.
“Because the little people of this country have been sucked,
hung, drawn, quartered, bled by these people in these
casinos.” TV3 News
By making a
convention centre for Auckland a campaign commitment – Banks
was clearing himself wiggle room to enable him to
subsequently push in favour of SkyCity’s bid at council
Keeping the donation anonymous would protect
him from being accused of flip-flopping on his casino views
as a result of having received a donation from SkyCity.
Of course we do not know whether at the time he received
the donation John Banks was aware of the
-building-subsidy plan of the Prime Minister.
may well have been given that it had by the time of his
campaign been in play for more than six
SkyCity’s Declines To Answer Scoop
Scoop submitted a series of questions to SkyCity which can be read in
full below. However the casino company did not answer
these questions, instead a spokesman reiterated a prepared
“SKYCITY made donations
of $15,000 each to Mr Len Brown and Mr John Banks for their
respective 2010 Mayoral campaigns. SKYCITY made no donations
in 2007 to John Banks’ mayoral
And What About Len
SkyCity’s donation is now causing
problems for the other candidate in the 2010 Supercity
election – Mayor of Auckland, Len Brown. Scoop has also
submitted a series of questions to
Len Brown this evening.
Recently, Len Brown voted
against Cr Cathy Casey’s motion that Auckland Council,
“does not support”, any law change to allow SkyCity to,
“increase opportunities for gambling” in return for a
convention centre – effectively a vote in favour of
SkyCity’s pokie machine rule change proposal.
Brown may now be preparing to change his position.
he said he was very concerned about revelations broadcast by
TVNZ last night showing that while observations of problem
gambling at SkyCity Casino were up over 300% in three years
- preventative measures appear to have not increased and the
number of problem gamblers banned from the Casino has
increased by only 27%.
In an interview with Paul Holmes on
TVNZ’s Q+A last weekend, Brown did not give a blank cheque
to SkyCity for his support for a convention centre, but he
did say: “we
desperately need that convention centre”. The Q+A team
summarised his responses to questions on this point as
Brown is expecting the Government
to be negotiating well down below the figure of 500
Brown: “Of course I’m worried about more
“When the government concludes its
negotiation I’ll give my view in terms of whether or not I
think that the position they’ve arrived at is appropriate
and one that we can actually live with.”
believes the harm minimisation measures he wants in place
will be listened to by the Government
What does he
mean by harm-minimisation? 24/7 officers on the ground
looking out for problem gamblers, and a machine to give you
a reminder as to how much you’re spending. – Q+A Transcript – Source
SkyCity Convention Centre
and Donations Timeline
– John Banks speaks out against casino operators in
Parliament calling them “wide boys”
August 2009 -
Feasibility study for a new convention centre
2009 – John Key has dinner with SkyCity bosses
- John Key intervenes in the MED process around building a
February 2010 – Gerry Brownlee
instructs officials to stop work and expect a proposal from
March 2010 – Government seeks high level
indications of interest in building a convention centre in
Sometime in 2010 – SkyCity donates to both
John Banks’ and Len Brown’s Mayoral Campaigns. (Note:
SkyCity did not donate to John Banks’ 2007
May 2010 – John Banks uploads video stating
that he is “totally committed” to a convention centre for
June 9 2010 – Two cheques for $25,000 are
deposited in the Banksie Campaign account by one of Kim
Dotcom’s employees in Queenstown.
June 2011 – SkyCity is
announced as “preferred developer of the New Zealand
International Convention Centre (NZICC)” Press Release – source Scoop.co.nz
April 2012 – Grant Robertson asks Prime Minister John Key a
question about the $15,000 anonymous donation to John Banks
from SkyCity – Hansard
- Source Scoop.co.nz
April 19th 2012 – Labour Party
releases papers showing the idea of the pokies rule change
came from John Key.
April 26th 2012 – Len Brown , as
Auckland’s Mayor, votes against the motion that Auckland
Council does not support increasing gambling opportunities
in return for a convention centre.
April 29, 2012 – Len
Brown tells Paul Holmes that he is hoping to see far greater
efforts to prevent problem gambling at SkyCity Casino.
Questions for SkyCity and Len
Did any representative of
SkyCity engage in a conversation with either Mr Banks, a
representative for Mr Banks or any party associated with Mr
Banks’ 2010 Mayoral campaign, at any time prior to, or after
the 2010 Auckland Mayoral election, but before Friday
December 3, in which it was discussed that any donation made
by SkyCity be made anonymously?
If no representative of
SkyCity discussed making an anonymous donation to Mr Banks’
2010 Mayoral campaign with any representative of Mr Banks’
2010 Mayoral campaign or Mr Banks, why was the donation made
How was a donation by SkyCity to Mr Banks’
2010 Mayoral campaign made? Cheque, bank deposit, or other
means, was the donation made in person? Did SkyCity write to
Mr Banks prior to the 2010 Auckland Mayoral election
advising of your donation before, at the time or after the
donation was made?
Did SkyCity intend for its donation to
Mr Banks’ Mayoral campaign to be anonymous?
representative of SkyCity recommend to any signing authority
within SkyCity who authorised the donation to Mr Banks 2010
Mayoral campaign recommend that the donation be made without
any accompanying letter or other correspondence which would
or otherwise the lack of which would render the donation
potentially anonymous and is that standard practice for
Has any correspondence or other communication
been received or engaged in with Mr Banks or any
representative of Mr Banks’ or other person associated with
Mr Banks’ 2010 Mayoral campaign that expresses thanks to
SkyCity for a donation? If so, when and what was said?
Questions for Len
During your campaign for
the Auckland Mayoralty in 2010, did you ever meet with
During your campaign for the Auckland Mayoralty
in 2010, did you ever discuss a potential international
conference and convention centre with SkyCity?
campaign for the Auckland Mayoralty in 2010, did you discuss
a potential international conference and convention centre
with any parties other than SkyCity; if so, which?
able to describe the method in which SkyCity made its
donation to your campaign?
Did SkyCity communicate its
donation to you in either in advance of the donation or
afterwards, and if so, did it provide a reason for its
Hamish McConnochie is a student at Victoria
University with a close interest in politics, he has a
column in Salient and in the interests of full disclosure
works part time for the Problem Gambling Foundation – You
can contact Hamish at firstname.lastname@example.org
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