There's belief that pokies are the only way to bankroll a convention centre for Auckland.
A convention centre is being described as crucial for New Zealand's profile worldwide.
The prime minister's pitched the idea to SkyCity which is keen to fund the project, but wants more gaming machines in exchange.
Tourism Industry Association chairman Norm Thompson says profits from the gaming machines are crucial.
"This used to be the only possibility that's in front of us at the moment, it's about the convention facility. The benefits of this will certainly outweigh any downside."
Mr Thompson says an Auckland convention centre would boost New Zealand's economy by more than $90 million a year.
Mr Thompson says before the earthquakes, the country's largest convention centre was in Christchurch.
"If we're serious about getting larger conventions to New Zealand particularly in the vicinity of 1500, to 3500 people we really do need this facility and this is what the issue has been about. We've been trying to get this for ten years."
Norm Thompson says the proposed centre would inject nearly $100 million a year into the economy.
John Key has had a glimpse of how Singapore tries to keep a lid on problem gambling.
If locals want to visit one of the two casinos there, they have to pay a $100 levy and beneficiaries are banned.
Gambling was legalised in Singapore in 2005 and the opulent casinos are aimed at tourists.
Our prime minister dismisses the idea as a possible solution for this country - and couldn't resist a little bit of political point scoring.
"Casinos have been in New Zealand for a long period of time. It's not a National government that brought them in, funnily enough they were brought in under a Labour government, so I don't think that presents itself as a major problem."
John Key says problem gambling only affects a small fraction of casino goers.
Image: NZ Herald