The last couple of months have seen two significant compliance decisions by the Gambling Commission: the cancellation of gaming machine society Bluegrass Holdings’ licence, and the cancellation of the licence to operate gambling machines at the Sideline Bar in Christchurch.
While Bluegrass initially lodged a judicial review of the decision, this has since been withdrawn, and its licence ended on 11 September. The Department is currently working through a cessation package with Bluegrass’ directors.
The Department considers these are important cases which underscore its commitment to ensuring the integrity of the gambling sector.
Both cases involved dishonest behaviour by key people aimed at deceiving the Department. Such behaviour should be of real concern to the gambling sector because of the damage it does to the reputation of all gambling societies and venues.
It remains the Department’s focus to remove untrustworthy individuals from the sector and use the licensing function as a gateway to ensure the integrity of those who hold gambling licences.
How can you help?
We know that improving the integrity of the gambling sector is a collective goal for venues and societies that are focused on maximising return to our communities and minimising harm. With that in mind, the Department encourages the sector to let us know about unlawful behaviour that may warrant investigation.
This information is vital to help bring about and maintain a level playing field for all gambling operators
With this in mind, we remind the sector of the Department’s Leniency and Cooperation Policy, which allows the Secretary to do the following:
grant immunity from Department-initiated proceedings to a person, corporate society or company, involved in activity that contravenes the Act, who comes forward with relevant information and evidence, and cooperates fully with the Department in any subsequent investigation and proceedings
exercise discretion to take a lower level of enforcement action, or no action at all against an individual or organisation in exchange for information and full, continuing and complete cooperation.
Choosing which society to work with: information for venue operators
We have received a number of enquiries from venue operators about how they should go about choosing a gambling society to align with.
While the Department cannot recommend particular societies to venue operators, we encourage venue operators to consider the service offered by a society and their compliance history, to ensure a level of certainty for the venue and their continued operation.
Venue operators may also wish to consider the broad community causes (e.g. authorised purpose) supported by the society through their grants, and whether or not these align with the venue operator’s philanthropic interests. However, venue operators must understand that it is against the law for them to influence a society’s grant decisions.
Compliance history information can be sought from audit reports, sanctions as listed in previous Gambits articles, Gambling Commission decisions, and research about individuals involved.
It is important that venue operators understand that the Gambling Act (2003) envisages a profit neutral relationship between venues and societies, so where a society offers to pay a venue more than another society, venue operators should ask how the increase is legally justified.