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Christchurch gambling-related crime capital

Thursday 9th March 2006

Christchurch gambling-related crime capital

"Theft and fraud of clients' money for gambling is becoming a regular feature in our courts," says John Stansfield, CEO of the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand.

"A retired Christchurch solicitor, his clients and family are victims of an industry that is out of control," says Mr Stansfield.

This comes after a retired Christchurch solicitor has been found guilty of using his client's money for gambling and horse-racing.

"This case is one in a list of many, where professionals in a position of trust - such as lawyers, solicitors, accountants and treasurers - have stolen money for gambling, from people who trusted their actions," says Mr Stansfield.

"The Christchurch community is suffering, and once again. Christchurch is proving to be the gambling-related crime capital of New Zealand," he says.

Recent cases of gambling-related crime by professionals in Christchurch include:

- Trusted employee from a car hire company stole $16,793 from his employer for his gambling problem (October 2005) - Machinery operator stole $231,399 from his employer for gambling (October, 2005) - Board member stole $22,382 from a trust for a gambling problem (August, 2005)

- Manager of a Sumner restaurant stole more that $16,000 for a gambling problem (August, 2005) - Key accounts manager stole $265,944 for gambling (June, 2005) - Christchurch bank teller embezzled $380,800 for gambling on pokies (April, 2005) - Maori business woman stole $186,000 to gamble at Christchurch Casino (March, 2005)

- Hong Kong used car salesman swindled $275,000 from Chinese students (March 2005) - Salesman conned customers out of $27,750 to feed a gambling problem (September, 2004) - Woman stole $3000 from her employer and faked a burglary to fund her gambling problem (March, 2004) - Woman stole $10,000 from her employer to fund her husband's gambling problem (March, 2004) - Woman stole $9012 from her employer to fund a gambling problem (August, 2003) - Christchurch lawyer stole $1.78million by fraud and forgery to gamble at Christchurch Casino (March, 2003)

Each year over 5000 New Zealanders are convicted of gambling-related crimes. On a steadily increasing basis, there are reports of fraud, money-laundering and theft for people to fund their gambling problems.

"A 2004 KPMG study found that gambling was the second highest motivator for serious property crime, and the highest motivator for fraud.

"It is often not realised that problem gambling affects more than the person with a gambling problem. Latest research indicates that at least seven people are affected by one person's gambling. This includes husbands, wives, partners, children, wider family members, employers and employees."

"These people are not career criminals. They could be our loved ones, our workmates and our neighbours. When we look at the big picture see we can see that problem gambling has harmed us all in some way or form," says Stansfield.

"It should be a major worry for the gambling industry, more and more the links between gambling and crime are becoming obvious", he says.

"However, it is not all doom and gloom. PGF provide free and confidential services to anyone with - or affected by - problem gambling. All you have to do is call us free on 0800 664 262."


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