Conviction of illegal pub bookmaker recalls bygone era

A Gisborne woman has evoked a seedy part of the New Zealand pub scene of years gone by with her conviction in Gisborne yesterday for illegal bookmaking.

Bernadette Antoinette Wawatai, a seasonal worker, was caught by Internal Affairs inspectors taking bets on horse races being screened on television at the Turanga Hotel in Gisborne last year.

She became the first person to be prosecuted by Internal Affairs for illegal bookmaking since the Gambling Act came into force in 2003.

Convictions under previous legislation were more common, with many pubs having their resident bookies as patrons listened to races on the radio, but the practice died away with TAB facilities available in many bars.

The 44-year-old was sentenced in Gisborne District Court to 100 hours of community work by Judge John Hole on two charges of conducting illegal gambling.

Judge Hole accepted submissions from Internal Affairs prosecutor Saar Cohen-Ronen that because of Wawatai's financial situation, a community-based sentence would be more appropriate than a fine.

The act provides for a fine not exceeding $20,000 or up to a year's imprisonment.

Judge Hole ordered the forfeiture of $1158 seized from the bookmaking operation.

Internal Affairs spokesman Trevor Henry confirmed that Wawatai's prosecution stemmed from the department acting on a complaint. A notebook and cash were seized by inspectors.

Internal Affairs director of gambling compliance Mike Hill said: "Bookmaking effectively diverts money from the community and from the racing industry, which gets much of its financial support through the TAB."

- NZPA

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