UMR director and former Goff staffer SkyCity's new spokesman

BUSINESSDESK: Gordon Jon Thompson, a UMR Research director and MP Phil Goff's ex-chief of staff, has been appointed SkyCity Entertainment's head cheerleader as the casino operator looks to ride out skepticism of its offer to build a $350 million convention centre in the heart of Auckland city.

His appointment as general manager of corporate communications comes as the casino operator courts controversy with its offer to build a convention centre in Auckland in exchange for more pokie machines, something the Labour Party has been deeply critical of.

Mr Thompson joined UMR, which does the Labour Party's polling, after Mr Goff's failed attempt to win the Treasury benches last year.

"We are delighted to make this senior appointment and I am confident he will make a significant contribution to SkyCity," chief executive Nigel Morrison said.

Mr Thompson will report directly to Mr Morrison.

Last month, Deputy Auditor-General Philippa Smith agreed to investigate the government's tender process for the convention centre, which was deemed the best option by the Ministry of Economic Development.

The government's decision to pursue a deal with SkyCity led to an outcry from anti-gambling advocates, who said an increase in slot machines would harm the poor and vulnerable.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei sought an investigation from the auditor-general in April this year.

Shares in SkyCity rose 0.6% to $3.57 in trading today and have gained 3.2% this year.

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