By REBECCA WALSH
Revelations that a South Auckland pokie bar owner is also the director of a clinic offering gambling rehabilitation services reinforce the need to toughen up gaming laws, Green MP Sue Bradford says.
Ms Bradford said Guy Leonard Smith, owner of Pokies Bar in Otahuhu, was operating a "gambling one-stop shop" by also providing gambling addiction rehabilitation services and a finance company.
Mr Smith is the registered director of Capri Health Services, , describing itself as a private clinic "offering gambling rehabilitation services for $5000", and Custom Credit Finance, which offers loans from an office next door to Pokies Bar.
"It's just the most astonishing integration of businesses, all making money out of gambling," Ms Bradford said.
Capri Health Services also appeared to have been set up as a registered trust, which might allow it to benefit from gaming Machine proceeds, Ms Bradford said.
As far as she was aware there was nothing illegal about what Mr Smith was doing but it "exposed the nature of this type of business in New Zealand".
"When I have told people, they are horror-struck ... that people are unscrupulously making money out of as many aspects of peoples' gambling as they can.
"It's a way of highlighting the problem. If other people want to ask Mr Smith questions, that would be good," she said.
Mr Smith refused to comment to the Herald.
Ms Bradford said the Responsible Gambling Bill, due back in the House within three weeks, should be strengthened to give councils and residents the ability to decide whether there were pokie parlours in their local areas and where they were.
Communities such as Otahuhu were "really suffering" from gambling problems.
Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis, who supported Ms Bradford's call, called Mr Smith's situation a "serious conflict of interest", which should not continue.
"It indicates the absurdity of the situation. That kind of nonsense needs to be laid to rest. Local government and the community has got to start to take the whole addiction to gambling very seriously."
Sir Barry said between February and September last year the number of pokie machines in Manukau City doubled. Problem gambling was six times worse among Pacific people than Pakeha.
But only a third of each gambling dollar was returned locally.
By REBECCA WALSH