The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


First Gambling Act sentencing: $12,000 fine for illegal gambling


New Zealand’s tighter controls on gambling continued to bite today when an Auckland man, An Yi Li, was fined a total of $12,000 plus costs for his involvement in an illegal casino. It was the first conviction of its kind under the Gambling Act.

Department of Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary Andrew Secker said that Parliament passed the Act to more strictly regulate licensed gambling and increase the penalties for illegal gambling.

“There have been important changes in how licensed casinos and gaming machine operators are being regulated,” Mr Secker said, “and now it is the turn of illegal operators.”

Li is one of seven people and one company charged with a range of offences under the Act. The other defendants are yet to appear in court. The Department will not release their names until they have appeared and will not comment on their cases until after they are completed.

Mr Secker said that the case began in September 2004 when New Zealand Customs staff at Auckland Airport found gambling chips with a face value of $480,600 and other gambling equipment being imported.

Customs advised the Department, and Gambling Inspectors investigated. The chips and gambling equipment had been manufactured overseas specifically for this illegal casino, even having its logo printed on them. Inspectors tracked people involved with the illegal casino to two Newmarket addresses.

In January 2005 Gambling Inspectors and Police executed search warrants at the two addresses. One of premises consisted of a large lounge bar and four gambling rooms. It contained gambling tables, cards, chips, tiles and other gambling equipment for a wide range of Chinese and European casino table games.

The Department charged Li with three charges related to the illegal casino. Today, he pleaded guilty and was fined $4,000 plus costs on each charge. Judge Josephine Bouchier also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the gambling equipment seized by the Inspectors.

Judge Bouchier said that Li had clearly been part of a complex, illegal gambling operation. She rejected a defence submission that the three charges should have been combined into one representative charge and noted that Parliament had greatly increased the penalties for such offending.

Mr Secker said that internationally gambling is heavily regulated because it involves large, very rapid cash turnover that can attract criminal activity. In the year to 30 June 2004, licensed gambling in New Zealand generated gross profits of more than $2.039 billion.

Legal gambling can be used to launder money from crime. That is, offenders attempt to disguise the proceeds of crime as gambling winnings.

Illegal gambling is often used to generate more cash for other criminal activity. It has been linked to drug trafficking and violent crime.

Gambling debt has been used to recruit people to commit crimes. In some cases, gamblers and their families are threatened and attacked after incurring debts. The gamblers can then be recruited to carry drugs and commit violent crime to pay off their debts.

“New Zealand is not immune from criminals trying to get involved in gambling, and Government agencies are working closely together to curb this type of offending,” Mr Secker said.

Media contact

Andrew Secker
Deputy Secretary Phone 04 495 9329, Cellular 027 281 5211

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