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NZ govenment's casino stake attacked

25 May 2007

Government confesses to $115 million stake in Sky City

NEW ZEALAND -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- The Green Party has condemned both Dr Michael Cullen's admission in the House today that the Government currently has $115 million invested in Sky City Entertainment Group, and his refusal to consider funding problem gambling organizations at the same level as the profits the Government is making from this socially damaging investment.

"The Government should be ashamed that state entities - including the Cullen Fund, ACC, and the Government Superannuation Fund - have invested $115 million of taxpayer money in a casino operator," Green Party Gambling Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"The Government's investment in gambling is happening at the same time that Sky City has just announced plans to aggressively target local gaming customers - with the Asian community being singled out for particular attention - to raise its slumping profit margins.

"The huge level of Government investment in gambling makes a mockery of the ethical investing guidelines on how taxpayer funds are supposed to be invested. In the House, Dr Cullen was effectively saying that ethical guidelines exist, but that he is powerless to ensure they are followed.

"Gambling does serious harms to individuals, families and communities across New Zealand. When I asked Dr Cullen if he was willing to contribute funds to problem gambling organizations equal to the profits being reaped by Government from its investment in Sky City, he refused - and stated his belief that this should not be government's role !

"Earlier this year, the Green Party revealed the scope of Government investment in firms making nuclear weapons and cluster bombs, and in companies such as Exxon-Mobil that have funded climate change denial. The scale of its $115 million involvement in Sky City makes it imperative that ethical investment guidelines for its Kiwisaver funds will be transparent - and put into practice.

"Gambling, for many, is like a drug. Currently the Government is promoting tough proceeds of crime legislation aimed at recouping profits from gangs, drug dealers and the like. When people steal in order to feed their gambling problem and spend that money at Sky City, is the Government willing to demand that such indirect profits from criminal activity be refunded, where identifiable? Or is the Government more interested in investment profits than in the victims of crime ?

"This week, Sky City unveiled plans to axe 230 jobs, due to falling profits. Sky City's share price rose today at news of these layoffs, boosting the Government's investment. Workers are, in effect, paying with their jobs to increase a Labour-led Government's investment returns," Ms Bradford says.

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