Casinos face challenge to pay back stolen money

Thursday 18 October 2012, 6:20PM

By Green Party


A Green Party bill to force casinos to pay back some of the proceeds of crime they receive through gambling was drawn from the ballot today.

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei's Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill would impose a special obligation on casinos to return profits derived from significant criminal activity and which they should have been able to detect.

"I urge all political parties to back my Bill to stop casinos profiting from crime," Mrs Turei said.

"When problem gamblers are driven to crime everyone suffers except the casino, which pockets the profits.

"When problem gamblers are jailed they lose their job and are separated from family and friends. Those they stole from are also worse off. The only winner is the casino.

"There's established international evidence that casinos benefit from crime and this is the industry John Key wants to do a deal with.

"My Bill specifically includes casinos in the Criminal Proceeds of Crime (Recovery) Amendment 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.

"My Bill will ensure 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.

"Prosecutions involving huge amounts of money stolen 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.

"My Bill is about ensuring they return criminal proceeds that they should never have benefited from," Mrs Turei said.

Further information:

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 pokie 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.

Related internet links
Metiria's bill