An elderly man who ripped off $605,550 in poker machine community grants, some of which he said was for "bowling green maintenance", has been sentenced to community detention.

Noel Henry Gibbons, 79, of Manurewa, was sentenced in the Manukau District Court yesterday to six months of community detention for obtaining by deception and for using forged documents in what Judge Charles Blackie called a "very elaborate scam".

It was uncovered in a year-long investigation by the Department of Internal Affairs. The department found numerous fraudulent grant applications to gaming machine societies from Counties Manukau Bowls, an umbrella organisation for South Auckland bowling clubs.

The court was told that from late 2006 to September 2009, CMB employed Gibbons to apply for gaming machine grants.

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He implemented a scheme in which constituent clubs or CMB would invest indirectly in pubs where poker machines operated so that in turn, those clubs could benefit from grants of poker machine proceeds.

Gibbons also applied for grants from gaming machine societies for bowling green maintenance, using the money to illegally repay loans for the purchase of pubs.

He fabricated quotes and invoices from greenkeeping contractors to support grant applications and the provision of services.

None of the contractors named in the invoices knew about the work they were supposed to have done.

Judge Blackie said Gibbons' offending was a "very elaborate" scam and an "unlawful scheme".

He said Gibbons knew he acted dishonestly each time he made a false application.

Speaking from his home, Gibbons told APNZ: "As far as I can see, that was a personal matter and I took it upon myself to plead guilty. End of story."

Internal Affairs spokesman Maarten Quivooy said he was pleased with the success of the operation.

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"A clear message to the gambling sector is this - where we come across deliberate and wilful attempts to take community funding, we will take strong and decisive action to hold people accountable."