by Denise Roche
It’s interesting that just a day after Auckland Chamber of Commerce boss Michael Barnett dismissed the potential for increased harm from pokie machine gambling as secondary to the ‘need’ for a new Convention Centre, Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei has won the lottery that is the members’ bill ballot with her bill to restrict the ability of casinos to keep the proceeds of crime.
I’ve said before that casinos are an engine of crime. Their very existence requires they make a profit from the proceeds of crime – typically money laundering – and problem gambling. A cursory glance at the newspapers will reveal regular stories of gamblers committing fraud and crime to get money to feed into the pokie machines.
Famously, two of the biggest drug dealers in Auckland spent nearly $20 million at SkyCity, while using the casino as an office to plan P deals. Casinos are also a magnet for loan sharks.
Metiria’s bill is a simple change in the law that beefs up the government’s own legislation around preventing money laundering. It will mean that casinos will have to return money gambled by people who have stolen that money – where it has been proven that the casino could reasonably know that the money came from dubious sources.
Mr Barnett would have us believe that theft, problem gambling, money laundering, drugs, gangs and all the other crime associated with casinos are minor issues – and that the need for a Convention Centre is more important. He tends to ignore the fact that the tender process for the Convention Centre is the subject of an Auditor General’s investigation because it smacks of cronyism and the Prime Minister has been heavily involved. And that’s quite aside from the fact that he seems prepared to sell our laws for it.
Auckland may well need a Convention Centre. But a centre that taints the government with criminality and that increases the harm and crime in our city is a pretty hefty price tag.