This blog has been set up to set the record straight and counter the misleading claims being made by pokie trusts and casinos about
proposed gambling reforms - including Te Ururoa Flavell's
Gambling Harm Reduction Bill.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Govt correctly accused of protecting their mates & penalising the wrong people for pokie breaches

Pokie machine ban irks publican - About 30 pokie machines run by the Grassroots Trust in Rotorua have been temporarily shut down after financial issues, but a local publican says the community will ultimately suffer. Vice-president of Hospitality New Zealand and local publican, Mr Hennessy, said the decision of the department missed the mark by penalising the community and pokie machine operators, while the trust's board and management faced no penalties whatsoever. "There is simply no justice or common sense in this approach. Why are the trustees and managers not being fined? Department of Internal Affairs Gambling Compliance director Debbie Despard said the department was satisfied the trust had taken the appropriate action.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

DIA tries to show pokie system isn't broke!

Gaming machines in a Huntly bar will be switched off for two days next week (30 and 31 July) because a staff member was not trained to deal with problem gamblers.
Internal Affairs’ Gambling Compliance Director, Debbie Despard, said the two-day suspension of Pub Charity’s gaming machine operator’s licence at a Huntly bar emphasises the responsibilities gambling trusts have to ensure bar staff are adequately trained to deal with problem gambling.  It also highlights the importance of gaming societies ensuring that their venues comply with all gambling law requirements.
The Department suspended Pub Charity’s licence for one day after a complaint that the sole staff member at McGinty’s Turf and Sports Bar failed to issue a self-exclusion order to a problem gambler, due to lack of training.
The Gambling Commission doubled the sanction after the trust appealed the Department’s decision. The Commission said it was very concerned that a problem gambler “who had decided to take the difficult step of seeking self-exclusion to avoid ongoing harm” had not been able to make good the commitment on the day in question. Pub Charity had breached an important obligation over about three months.
Debbie Despard said self-exclusion allows a person to ask a venue manager to ban them from a venue for two years and can be very effective for people experiencing harm from gambling. Venues will be aware that a person has self-excluded and must take action if they try to re-enter.
“Gambling societies are responsible for ensuring that a person trained in problem gambling awareness is on duty whenever there is gambling offered,” she said.
The Department is working with problem gambling services and gambling operators to introduce multi-venue exclusion (MVE) programmes around the country.
“These allow a person to self-exclude from several venues at once without having to visit each personally,” Debbie Despard said. “Providing a ‘one-stop shop’ avoids the daunting prospect of a problem gambler having to repeatedly seek self-exclusion, losing resolve in the process.”
The MVE programme was started in 2006 by Internal Affairs’ gambling inspectors in Queenstown, where approximately 170 gamblers have sought self-exclusion.  The programme was extended to Invercargill, Dunedin, Nelson, Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga; Christchurch, Lower Hutt and Auckland are the latest areas to implement MVEs. The United Kingdom’s problem gambling care provider, GamCare, adopted a similar scheme after being briefed on the programme.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pokie Trust Licence suspended

Gaming machines operated by Grassroots Trust in 21 pubs* will shut down for 16 days after the society failed to comply with gambling laws. This penalty is the most severe suspension that a class 4 gambling society has faced.
Internal Affairs’ Gambling Compliance Director, Debbie Despard, said Grassroots was sanctioned for breaches in the financial year ending March 2010 – failing to distribute a minimum of 37.12 pc of gaming machine proceeds to authorised purposes, a shortfall of $561,482 and overpaying venue expenses by$79,359.
The Department initially decided to cancel Grassroots’ licence in December 2011 after an audit revealed compliance breaches. Grassroots was entitled to continue operating while it appealed the decision to the Gambling Commission and sought a judicial review in the High Court.
The Department's dealings with the trust led to a negotiated outcome which will result in higher compliance expectations and more money to the community.  In bringing about a resolution the trust has agreed to licence conditions that require it to distribute a minimum of 40 per cent of gaming machine profit to the community and to limit the expenses it pays to its venues in a year to 14.5 per cent of GMP, rather than the statutory cap of 16 per cent.
As part of the negotiated outcome Grassroots is withdrawing the High Court action and its appeal to the Gambling Commission and the Department is withdrawing the licence cancellation.
Debbie Despard, said the community will ultimately benefit because Grassroots will provide more funds for grant distribution. The trust also committed itself to be a best-practice operator and to improving its funding practices to better target community need.
While some pubs may see themselves as being punished for a society’s misdemeanour, Debbie Despard urged venue operators to exercise caution in entering into an agreement with a society to operate gaming machines in their pubs.  Venue operators should be aware that they cannot receive any benefit from class 4 operators, other than reimbursement that is actual, reasonable and necessary. They should enquire about a society's compliance when choosing their class 4 operator, including where that society directs its grants and whether grant funding stays in the local community.
“We are satisfied that Grassroots has taken an appropriate response to the compliance issues.  High expectations for the future have been set, and the trust has already shown signs of improving its performance.  The successful end to negotiations shows the Department is prepared to be flexible in order to maximise benefits for the community.  
“Gaming trusts exist to maximise gaming machine proceeds to the community and ultimately the community will benefit from the commitments that Grassroots has made.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Auckland gets Waikato and BOP Gambling Proceeds

   A pokies trust which earns nearly half its proceeds from Waikato and Bay of Plenty gamblers is giving most of its grants to  groups in Auckland,  Green Party gambling spokesperson Denise Roche has revealed.
   An analysis of data provided by pokie trusts reveals Nautilus Trust owns pokies in pubs throughout the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty as well as Auckland, but 98 per cent of the grant funds are distributed to Auckland groups - many of them sports organisations  
   "The Waikato and Bay of Plenty have 44% of Nautilus' 154 pokie machines, but only receive 1.4% of Nautilus' grants," Ms Roche said.
   "This shows the urgent need for a different system of pokies funds distribution which ensures that the harm caused to communities by gambling is at least partly rectified by ensuring grant funding is returned to the same community.
   "Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell's Gambling Harm Reduction Bill, which the Green Party has supported through its first reading in Parliament, will deliver a fairer distribution system and is a good start towards pokie reform.
   "It would ensure at least 80% of the grant funding available from pokie profits is returned to the area they are collected from. The Nautilus case demonstrates exactly why that kind of guarantee is necessary.
   "Out of the total 229 grants that Nautilus made, only eight Waikato groups received funding. The rest went to Auckland,” said Ms Roche.
   "Bay of Plenty groups didn't apply for funding so didn't get any. But funds were still taken out of that community.
   "We need to be proactive to ensure pokie funds do not get siphoned from poor communities into wealthier ones, which is a situation we've seen time and again under the current distribution model," Ms Roche said.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Pokie Trust's License cancelled

The Secretary for Internal Affairs has cancelled Bluegrass Trust’s class 4 gambling operator’s licence because he cannot be satisfied the gaming machine society is meeting its obligations under the Gambling Act 2003.
Bluegrass Trust applied to renew its licence in June 2010 and, following an investigation, the Secretary found the trust had supplied false or misleading information about three trotting club loans. These loans were used to establish Bluegrass Trust. In addition, the Secretary found a key person to be unsuitable because of his previous poor compliance with the Gambling Act. The Secretary also considers Bluegrass Trust has breached section 118 of the Gambling Act by knowingly receiving funds, with conditions attached, from potential grant recipients.
Bluegrass Trust can appeal the Secretary's decision to the Gambling Commission and the licence continues operating pending a result.
Blenheim-based Bluegrass Holdings Ltd was incorporated in June 2009 and trades as Bluegrass Trust  operating 117 gaming machines in seven bars in Auckland, Lower Hutt, Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch.   Bluegrass Trust says on its website that it raises funds primarily for the benefit of racing in New Zealand, although its Authorised Purpose allows donations for charitable and/or sporting purposes.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Corruption rife in pokie trusts system: Former director

Francis Wevers
[By David Fisher, NZ Herald]
   The former boss of the industry association representing pokie trusts says the system is corrupt and needs total reform.
   Former Community Gaming Association executive director Francis Wevers said the incentives to take advantage were too powerful. The result was "endemic non-compliance" and "corruption" in a business which had a turnover of $9 billion. About $850 million was distributed to the Government, the community and pokie trusts.
   The pokie trusts face extinction under a private member's bill brought by Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell, which would strip the trusts of their powers and create a new system for distributing funding.
   His proposed bill creates a system where local government would distribute the cash with a focus on making grants to local organisations.
   The bill has led to pokie trusts organising a revolt among community and sporting organisations, using the spectre of disappearing funding.
   Mr Wevers said he believed a new system would lead to greater levels of funding going back to the community, though did not believe local government was the right conduit.
   He said the flaws in the current system gave the hospitality sector too much power, allowing host pubs to command too much of a share of pokie proceeds under threat of shifting allegiance to other gaming trusts.         "Right from the start, the hospitality sector has seen the requirement for money to go back to the community as an imposition."
   Mr Wevers said attempts to reform the industry failed as those involved "reverted to behaviour to maximise returns to venues" and trusts. "There were a whole of lot of people and lawyers assisting them who were looking at ways to avoid the law."
   He said trusts sought professional advice to create funding structures that worked around the law, arguing they were not forbidden by the rules. "What they were doing was corrupting the intent of Parliament."
   Mr Wevers said after leaving the CGA he had written a report highlighting the flaws in the industry which went to then-Internal Affairs minister Nathan Guy. He said there was a willingness to fix the system.
   In the report, he said more than half the pokie trusts were subject to sanctions by the Department of Internal Affairs after breaches of legal and operating obligations.
   Mr Wevers said sanctions were light and infrequent. They were seen as an "irritant rather than a disincentive" and "calculated as an affordable cost of business".
   He said it was critical Government found a solution because of the need for funding.
   "There are too many sports organisations that are so dependent on pokie money because they don't have any capacity to raise it any more from people who play the sports."
   Mr Wevers said eradicating pokie machines was not the solution; those who wanted to gamble would find furtive methods to indulge.
   He had made a submission to the select committee considering Mr Flavell's bill, recommending a new system for distributing cash. He believed it should be divided and tendered on a territorial basis with decisions based on those who offered the lowest level of expense and greatest return to the community.
   There also needed to be greater harm-minimisation measures, including swipe cards for players that recorded their level of gambling.
   A further measure he recommended - also in Mr Flavell's bill - was removal of the ability to fund racing stakes with pokie money. Gambling money being used as a gambling stake was "bizarre".
   Current CGA executive director Brian Corbett said he rejected Mr Wevers' views on pokie trusts but would not comment further.
   Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain, the third minister to hold the role in a year, refused to be interviewed. In a statement, he conceded "there may be wider concerns in the sector which need to be addressed".

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hamilton City Council votes to support Bill

   By a vote of 10-2, Hamilton City Council today, supported the thrust of the 'Flavell' Bill to remove pokie trusts from the role of distributing pokie machine profits, and place that job in the hands of a 'local, publicly-accountable, democratically selected entity'.
   Only the city's Mayor, and a Councillor with previous close links with the Waikato Rugby Union, opposed the move.
Mayor Hardaker supported pokie trusts
   The Council also supported the Bill's move to require at least 80% of pokie profits to be given back as grants to the local community, to improve gambling harm reduction measures, to give Councils power to license ALL pokie venues, not just new ones, and to end the practice of using pokie money to prop up race meeting prizemoney.
   At a meeting of the Council's Policy and Strategy Committee, discussion took place around the "rorts and ripoffs" associated with the pokie industry, with one Councillor describing his experience of dealing with pokie trust funding processes as being "close to corrupt."
  Evidence was given that Netball, with more players than Rugby Union, received only one quarter the amount of grants from pokie trusts, while sports and racing recieved 53% of all grants in the last year - greatly exceeding community and emergency services, or any other sector.
  Councillors were not convinced by industry 'scare tactics' suggesting that community and sporting groups would get less support under the Bill, and agreed that the current 40% return rate was pathetic, and "not balanced."