The Green Party today expressed surprise that iconic racing figures such as Sir Patrick Hogan and Dave O'Sullivan would lend their names to the online gambling site 'Race-O New Zealand' set up on Saturday.
"The Gambling Act passed only three years ago by this Parliament made online gaming illegal within New Zealand. It also makes betting on horses illegal if it takes place with anyone other than the TAB," Greens' Racing and Gambling Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.
"Such online activities are illegal not only for the operators of the game but for the participants. Perhaps to circumvent these legal restrictions, Race-O is the trading name of a company registered in Costa Rica, while its gaming and betting license has been secured within the Kahnawake Indian nation, near Montreal, Canada.
"The Government should immediately close down the site, and pursue prosecutions vigorously if laws have been broken," Ms Bradford says.
'During the Select Committee process for the Gambling Act we heard a lot of evidence about the harm done by internet gambling, and the majority of MPs were keen to do everything possible to restrain the development of online gaming in New Zealand, even though it is difficult to combat internationally.
"This type of online gambling on racing events could also end up posing a threat to the viability of the racing industry, because at least the present TAB monopoly guarantees that gambling profits are returned to the industry in a reasonably accountable manner.
"Racing seems already to be in such a state of decline that it is reduced, shamefully, to taking the proceeds of pokie money to bulk out major stakes.
"It would be a pity if the advent of online gaming sites like Race-O should even further undermine the distribution system maintained by the TAB, through the auspices of the NZ Racing Board."