More crime from pokies

Yesterday four men appeared in the Wellington District Court charged with more than 30 counts of ‘Obtaining by Deception’ after a two and a half year investigation into in an alleged $30 million pokie fraud.

The four men have close links with the South Island racing industry. One of them – Patrick O’Brien is the former chair of Harness Racing New Zealand and another, with name suppression, being a former gaming inspector.

David Fisher in today’s NZ Herald refers to an interview he conducted with Pat O’Brien two years ago where O’Brien laments the lack of funding for the racing industry and explains how he “set up the pokies trust at the centre of the allegations to get cash for race stakes and other purposes after funding dried up.”

The four face charges after a cross-agency investigation that started in June 2012 and follows on from other Department of Internal Affairs investigations into southern racing clubs in 2010 and 2009. That joint investigation, known as Operation Chestnut involved the department, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Organised Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (Ofcanz.)

Hamish McNeilly from the Otago Daily Times has been following pokie fraud stories for several years now and in this article from last May where he reports on the reduction in grants from pokie trusts going to racing he describes the allocation of funding grants to the racing industry from some of these dodgy trusts as ‘a money go round.’

These charges are just the latest crime associated with pokie gambling. With over $200 million lost on the machines in pubs and clubs there’s a lot of money washing around. Previous fraud activities in the last year include the treasurer of a sports club claiming fraudulent grants; a bar worker stealing $90,000 from pokie takings in Hamilton and an administrator for a pokie trust manipulating their financial accounts to make it look like they had distributed the required minimum amount of the funds their machines generated from gambling.

These dishonesty crimes don’t take into account the countless thefts by people who have problems with pokie gambling that are reported in the media on a depressingly regular basis.   Given that about 40 percent of the funds from pokies that go to the pokie trusts for distribution come from people with little or no control over their gambling behaviour it’s little wonder the industry is riddled with crime.

Our Green policy is for more transparency around the distribution of funds for pokie trusts and to introduce pre-commit cards and real-time player tracking for gamblers so that we eliminate problem gambling once and for all.


About Denise Roche 161 Articles

Green Party MP

1 Comment Posted

  1. Prompted by this article, I had a read of the Green Party gambling policy, and a jolly interesting read it is too.

    It starts really well, “Conduct a full social, economic and environmental impact study on the effect of the gambling industry on all aspects of life in New Zealand. ” I’m really on board with that, and think its an excellent idea. Points 2 and 3 also smart things to do.

    Then we get to point 4: “Support the government moratorium on issuing any new casino venue licences…”

    Hang on a minute; we started off having a (presumably) evidenced based assessment of the effects of gambling on all aspects of NZ life, which must include the positives as well as the negatives, and then suddenly were agreeing with a (presumably non-evidence-based) moratorium. What happened here? Suddenly we’re adopting a position without evidence.

    4b is interesting: “the Green Party supports the right of communities within the territorial authority area in which the casino venue is located, to vote in a binding referendum on the future of the casino.” So, if enough people vote for the casino, then its in in a binding manner which the council can’t ignore. Is that not grossly stupid? The number of people who benefit from pokie machine activities dwarfs – by orders of magnitude – those who are negatively effected, but the silent majority are mostly unaware of this, but that could be fixed with a little activism.

    Again, “Work towards getting rid of all pub non-casino gaming machines, in the first instance by giving councils the power, in full consultation with local residents, to eliminate pub based pokies from their district altogether, and ultimately by legislation to abolish pub pokies; ” That is pre-judging the evidence from point 1.

    And then the worst bit: “Take steps to mitigate the impact of ending pub pokie grants to community and voluntary sector organisations by establishing a special transitional fund of $150 million which will be administered through the existing range of Government grant-making bodies and covering all parts of the sector.”

    That’s just terrible. The “existing range of Government grant-making bodies” do lots of good work, but there are many things that they choose not to cover, COGS and the Ministers (so-called) discretionary fund being two corker examples. The community based pokie funding, which does enormous community good, is so much more diverse than the very limited range of options which exist in the existing government grant making bodies.

    And just what is “transitional”? When will the money stop? As soon as the government chooses to make it stop, that’s when. As a reliable source of funding, I’d rather stick with the reliable and purpose-driven pokie machine trusts than the government.

    Finally, I’d like some investigation into dumping program gambling treatment providers, and stop problem gamblers in their tracks by making it a technology problem, handled by an independent third party. But I want the technology not to penalise non-problem-gamblers, and to not be a violator of most people’s privacy, and that’s exactly what the Green Party advocate with commitment cards. “…introduce pre-commit cards and real-time player tracking for gamblers” – Not in the policy, as far as I could find, but certainly in the mind of Denise.

    TL;DR – starts well, but could do better.

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