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GAMBLING

Greens seek crackdown on illicit casino proceeds

Monday 16 July 2012, 12:43PM
By Green Party
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The Green Party has drafted a Bill that would require casinos to pay back the some of the proceeds of crime they receive through gambling.

The Bill would amend the Criminal proceeds of crime (recovery) amendment Act to impose a special obligation on casinos to return profits derived from significant criminal activity and which they should have been able to detect.

"When problem gamblers are convicted of stealing from their employers, or laundering drug money through the casino, everyone suffers except the casino, who pockets the profits," Green Party gambling spokesperson Denise Roche said today.

"The addict is jailed, and loses their job, their family and friends. Their employer can be ruined. But the casino is better off as a result of the crime. That's not fair.

"The draft amendment Bill specifically includes casinos in the Act and introduces a new legal test that makes them responsible for forfeiting proceeds, if they allowed the gambling to occur by not using the best methods to detect problem gambling and crime.

"This is not about picking on the casino for every $10 stolen to pump into a pokie machine.

"It's about ensuring that the proceeds of significant criminal activity, are returned to people they've been stolen from.

"Casinos have access to advanced technologies for detecting criminal activity and fraud. They have host responsibility programmes that should ensure alarm bells go off when risky gambling occurs.

"But recent prosecutions involving huge amounts of money stolen and then gambled by high rollers at SkyCity casinos, often tracked by casino VIP programmes, raise questions about whether the casino could have done more to detect and deter the crimes.

"Other laws and regulations are in place to ensure casinos step up their efforts to detect crime.

"This amendment Bill is about ensuring they return criminal proceeds that they should never have benefited from," Ms Roche said.

Notes:

Massey University research shows that about 10,000 New Zealanders are engaged in illegal activities because of their gambling addictions. Pokies are the worst culprits.

Problem gambling costs $1 billion annually in bankruptcies, arrests, incarcerations, unemployment, divorce, poor physical and mental health, loss of educational opportunity and suicide.

After a request from the Green Party, the Auditor-General is investigating a deal between the Government and SkyCity, that would change the Gambling Act to allow the casino hundreds more pokier machines, and other concessions, in exchange for the casino building a convention centre in Auckland.

Examples of criminal money spent at casinos

- Trusted accountant Richard Arthur Watson stole $5.4 million from his employer to feed his gambling addiction at SkyCity, spending $50 million over ten years as a VIP high roller. He went to jail last year, his family was devastated and his employer suffered massive losses, which will never really be recovered.

- Christian Clifton, a methamphetamine cook who was jailed for life in September 2011, was a VIP member of the high-roller club at SkyCity casino. He gambled $1.3 million in the three years before his arrest.

From the $1.3 million gambled, he had a return of $1.1 million , a loss of around $200,000. That was in effect the price to clean up illegally gained money.

- Herminia Lanuza, an accountant, was jailed in 2010 after stealing $2.7 million to spend as a VIP at SkyCity.