A pokie trust has been hit with the biggest penalty imposed on the gambling industry for paying more than $500,000 to one of its trustees to sign up new pokie venues.

The Trusts Charitable Foundation, representing nine liquor licensing trusts including Waitakere and Portage in West Auckland, has been ordered to shut the gambling rooms at all of their 74 venues for six days in the next month - which will cost it hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Gambling Commission, which imposed the penalty yesterday, said the trust had rejected repeated challenges by the Internal Affairs Department over payments to a company owned by one of its trustees, Murray Acklin, from 2006 until last year.

It has also imposed a five-day shutdown on 89 venues run by Dunedin-based Southern Trust for unjustified expenses aimed at enticing pub operators to join the trust.

The commission found that the Trusts Foundation paid Mr Acklin, a member of the Racing Board, $10,000 a month plus expenses through his company to recruit pubs for the foundation.

The foundation said Mr Acklin signed up 26 new venues in the three years to 2009.

In return, the commission said, the foundation paid him a total of $425,254 in monthly fees plus $43,652 in expenses and $60,750 in trustee honorariums, a total of $529,656 over the three years.

The commission found that none of the payments were legal under the Gambling Act, which requires pokie trusts to minimise costs and maximise returns to the community.

A spokesman said the department believed that more than 30 of the country's 50 gambling trusts have "similar issues of non-compliance".

Both trusts said the law had been unclear, but that they would accept the commission's decisions without appealing.

PENALTIES IMPOSED
Trusts Charitable Foundation: Ordered to close gambling rooms in all 74 venues for six days - which will cost it hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.

Southern Trust: Ordered to shut down 89 venues for five days - which will cost between $370,000 and $400,000 in lost profits