The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation

 

Internal Affairs and Police raid illegal casino


31/5/2004

The Department of Internal Affairs has closed down an illegal casino operating in Wellington. The casino was believed to be linked to an Asian organised crime group.

Eight people were arrested and a large amount of money was seized when a search warrant was executed overnight on Friday evening.

The Director of the Department’s Gaming and Censorship Regulation Group, Keith Manch, said that large-scale illegal gambling is typically linked to international drug trafficking, drug selling within New Zealand, money laundering and violent crime.

In some cases, gamblers and their families are threatened and attacked after incurring gambling debts. The gamblers are often recruited to carry drugs and commit violent crime to pay off their debts.

Illegal gambling is used to launder money from drug trading and other criminal activity.

“To give an idea of the scale of this operation, we know of one gambler who lost almost $30,000 in a few days, and we estimate that tens of thousands dollars would probably have changed hands on a busy night,” Mr Manch said.

The Department began its investigation after it and the Police received information about the illegal casino.

The Department co-ordinated a team of Gambling Inspectors, Police and Fisheries staff to execute the warrant. The illegal casino has been operating nightly for approximately two months.

Six Department Inspectors, four Police Officers and a Fisheries Officer executed the search warrant. The gamblers were given formal warnings that they were participating in illegal gambling. Of the eight people arrested, six will be charged with operating illegal games of chance, and two will be charged with other offences.

Those arrested, whose ages range from 18 to 29 years, will appear in the Wellington District Court on Friday, 4 June.

The upstairs casino venue was set up as a sophisticated gaming room with tables and dealers for baccarat, pai gow, blackjack, show hand, poker, and Chinese chess.

“This was an elaborate and illegal operation,” Mr Manch said.

“The investigation will continue for several more weeks and is already producing valuable intelligence for all the agencies involved.

“This is an excellent example of why gambling is tightly regulated in New Zealand and of the value of co-operation between enforcement agencies.

“New Zealanders lose more than $2 billion a year gambling, and gambling turnover is more than $10 billion. Without strict regulation the amount of cash turnover provides criminals plenty of opportunity to launder money.

”Throughout the world, gambling provides opportunities for money laundering. Illegal gambling is frequently linked to organised crime. New Zealand is not immune from that and government agencies are increasingly working closely together in order to curb this type of offending.”

Media contact:

Keith Manch
Director Phone 04 495 9449, Cellular 027 445 6420

Vincent Cholewa
Communications Advisor Phone 04 495 9350, Cellular 027 272 4270