The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Department swoops on illegal poker

26 July 2011

Gambling Inspectors from Internal Affairs and Police Officers uncovered a potentially illegal poker tournament being run at a Hamilton tavern on Sunday afternoon (24.07.2011).

Acting Director of Gambling Compliance, Debbie Despard, said Internal Affairs executed the search warrant after it was discovered a tavern was allegedly conducting illegal poker games.

28 people were discovered playing Texas Hold ‘em poker at the tavern at the time of the search.

“It is illegal to run poker tournaments where the prize money exceeds $500 or for an organiser to retain a percentage of the turnover as a commission. It is also illegal to allow your venue to be used for illegal gambling," said Ms Despard. "These are offences under the Gambling Act that are punishable by a fine of up to $20,000 or a year in prison."

"We have information that suggests other owners of some taverns have been running illegal poker games. They need to be aware that the Internal Affairs will investigate and will prosecute if offences have been committed. If they have gaming machines at their venues, they should also realise that this is likely to make them unsuitable to be involved in running the machines."

Participants in illegal poker tournaments potentially face fines of up to $1000.

People can organise poker tournaments that are legal as long as the amount of money played for is $500 or less and all winnings are paid out to participants. Societies can also conduct poker tournaments as fundraising activities subject to certain rules. It is illegal, however, for a 3rd party organiser to 'clip the ticket' or to allow funds to accumulate without limits, both of which were suspected in the case in Hamilton.

The rules for running gambling activities can be found on the Internal Affairs' website:

Anyone who has concerns about potentially illegal gambling can contact the Gambling Compliance Group on 0800 257 887.

Media contact:

Debbie Despard, Acting Director of Gambling Compliance, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 494 0617; cell 021 246 3928

Jo Watt, communications advisor, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 9382; cell 027 221 3665