Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Greens call for law change to crack down on criminals

There are fears of money-laundering if gamblers can cash in tickets at unmanned kiosks. Photo / Thinkstock
There are fears of money-laundering if gamblers can cash in tickets at unmanned kiosks. Photo / Thinkstock

SkyCity should be forced to pay back the millions of dollars in criminal profits spent at the casino instead of gaining Government concessions for a proposed $350 million convention centre, says the Green Party.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said the Government should can the convention centre deal and instead strengthen gambling laws to stop casinos benefiting from the proceeds of crime.

"The concessions SkyCity are seeking in return for building the conference centre, like more Ticket In Ticket Out [cashless gambling] machines, are likely to lead to more money laundering at the casino," said Ms Turei.

"Rather than change the law to allow SkyCity more opportunities to cause harm, the Government should investigate ways to ensure the casino pays back money stolen from hard-working New Zealanders.

"John Key's casino deal goes well beyond tinkering with the law, it subverts a fundamental intention of the Gambling Act to minimise the harm caused by casinos."

A Department of Internal Affairs report released under the Official Information Act believes it is "unlikely" the cashless technology would be permitted under the Gambling Act which requires the harm from gambling to be prevented or minimised.

This is because the ticket machines can allow gamblers to dissociate themselves from reality by not using "real" money; gamble uninterrupted for long periods; increase gambling credits by $500 a time, rather than the $20 cash limit; be less likely to be identified as problem gamblers.

However, SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said the Greens' claims had "no substance". He added: "None of the people referred to in the Greens' press release were convicted of money laundering at SkyCity."

ILL-GOTTEN GAINS

Over the past three years, the Herald has revealed five cases where drug kingpins and fraudsters have spent millions at SkyCity:

* Richard Arthur Watson stole $5.4 million from his employers over 10 years and had a $50 million turnover at SkyCity during that time.

* Christian Clifton, a methamphetamine cook jailed for life in September 2011, gambled $1.3 million in the three years before his arrest.

* Herminia Lanuza, an accountant, was jailed in 2010 after stealing $2.7 million to spend at SkyCity.

* Drug kingpins Ri Tong Zhou and Tac Kin Voong had a combined turnover of nearly $20 million over 12 months in the VIP lounge, where each ran his own large-scale syndicate.

- NZ Herald

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