Spot prizes break gambling rules

By Genevieve Helliwell, Joseph Aldridge

Western Bay event organisers are keeping a watchful eye on moves by the Internal Affairs department to crackdown on spot prizes and games of chance.

The department has sent cease-and- desist letters to 15 organisations around the country, informing them that only certain licensed organisations are allowed to run games of chance with prizes worth more than $500.

The move has already caused the organiser of New Zealand's biggest fishing tournament, held annually at Ruakaka in Northland, to put ticket sales on hold while he searches for a way to comply with the rules.

The $100,000 prize for catching a tagged snapper and more than $220,000 in spot prizes at the Beach and Boat Fishing Competition are alleged to breach the Gambling Act.

Locally, organisers of the ITM Kahawai World Cup, a surfcasting competition held annually in Papamoa, have written to Internal Affairs seeking clarification and will be meeting this week to discuss the matter.

One of the organisers, Fraser McCullough, said he thought the event would be unaffected by the crackdown because the top prize of $10,000 was awarded for catching the heaviest kahawai.

However, he was less than impressed by the department's actions.

Mr McCullough said spot prizes encouraged participation and they should be continued. He did not believe they were a form of gambling.

Tauranga Coastguard operations manager Simon Barker said it was "a shame'' that it had come to this.

Nationally, the organisation had two raffles a year where they gave away four boats of varying values.

Mr Barker did not believe the raffles would be affected by the Internal Affairs crackdown.

"It's a shame because these things get people to attend events. It's a huge shame, that's the only way to put it. I think it's a bit heavy handed but we'll just have to wait and see what happens from here.

"My thoughts are spot prizes encourage participation and if someone knows they can't win a competition, they might get a chance at winning something _but is this gambling? I think it's a bit far-fetched.''

The Tauranga Coastguard is set to hold a charity golf event on Friday, November 9. Mr Barker said there were spot prizes but none were over the value of $500.

Facebook users were quick to pronounce the Internal Affairs crackdown as "completely mad and totally ridiculous''.

Commenting of the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page, Shona Dellow asked ``How friggin' big brother is that''.

"Life is hard enough and we average kiwis love to enter competitions that have a prize that we certainly would not be able to afford otherwise . . . to the internal affairs . . . go find someone who is cheating the system . . . leave the rest of us to figure out if we have a gambling problem or not!''

- Bay of Plenty Times

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