Written By: - Date published: 10:04 am, March 25th, 2014 - 48 comments
Categories: accountability, community democracy, corruption, crime, peter dunne, poverty, same old national - Tags: gambling, pokies
The concern and debate over the loss of funding to the Problem Gambling Foundation has focused a lot on the PGF’s opposition to the SkyCity deal and the government’s, especially Peter Dunne’s, possible role in the de-funding decision.
Powerful pokie trusts & non-transparent manipulations
However, there are indications that the most significant of PGF’s opponents are not within government itself, but powerful commercial networks involved within the gambling industries – not just at SkyCity, but those involved in managing pokie trusts. Such trusts lack full transparency. It is highly likely that key people involved in the trusts are buddies with, and/or move within the same networks as influential, wealthy and powerfully connected people. This would make it very hard to locate the ways in which anti-PGF interests influenced the outcome of the decision to limit funding to the PGF.
The NZ Herald editorial yesterday hinted at this. The government, especially Peter Dunne as Minister of Health, the ministry responsible for the decision has bent over backwards to ensure that he is not linked to the decision making. However, the editorial also suggests ways that public servants can act in ways to provide the outcome that the government wants, without being directly instructed to do so.
As that minister, Peter Dunne, said in reply to criticism from the Greens, Labour and the Public Service Association, the ministry “went beyond the requirements of best practice”. Which could well confirm the critics in their cynicism. They know and the electorate knows public servants can pick up on political winds, anticipate their masters’ prejudices and move to consider them. Not always to meet them, but to find a way for the political within the strict machinery of the state.
[Edit: The NZ Herald is confusing on ministerial responsibilities. Peter Dunne is Associate Minister of Health - responsible for problem gambling-; and Minister of Internal Affairs - responsible for gambling legislation and licenses, etc]
Other news articles have pointed to complaints against the PGF by Pokie Trusts. For instance, Steve Kilgallon on Stuff reported 2 days ago,
A senior industry source said pokie trusts had lodged several complaints with the ministry about PGF’s behaviour, resulting in the foundation’s chief executive, Graeme Ramsey, being called to “please explain” meetings.
Ramsey confirmed the meetings, saying “it’s fair to say our political activity creates tension with the funder” but said he had told the ministry no taxpayer money was spent on advocacy work.
The main concern about the pokie trusts is that they don’t return as much of the profits from pokies back to the community as the laws and regulations intend. The trusts must therefore be involved in some secretive manipulations to siphon profits back to the trust managers.
The PGF has been campaigning against such corruption since at least 2010. In this press release of November 2010, the PGF supports Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s private members Gambling Harm Reduction Bill.
The Problem Gambling Foundation says now is the time to review the current system of distributing pokie funds through trusts, a system which continues to be abused.
Graeme Ramsey, Problem Gambling Foundation CEO, says this will address the issue of the blatant misuse of pokie money by people held in positions of trust that is rife in New Zealand.
“Year after year, the number of cases involving the misuse of pokie funds is outstanding. People who are trusted with the distribution of large sums of public money continue to flout the law, and it is the community that is deprived of valuable funding for worthy causes,” he says.
According to yesterday’s NZ Herald editorial, the decision to review the allocation of funding for problem gambling was “signalled” in 2012. In an article by Simon Collins in today’s NZ Herald, Graeme Ramsay of the PGF says they were not aware that such a review was being undertaken. The PGF is considering a legal challenge to the de-funding.
Flavell’s Bill was introduced to parliament in late 2010. In the course of progress through the House, the government succeeded in ripping the teeth out of the Bill.
Kate Shuttleworth reported in the NZ Herald on July 10 2013:
Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell defended his Gambling Harm Reduction Bill in Parliament tonight, after most of its measures to minimise the harm caused by pokie machines were removed or weakened.
The Bill became law on 14 September 2013.
Previously a Maori Party document claimed that:
The system is rife with corruption and misuse of public money
It included this graphic
The Nats, crime & addictive gambling systems
A well researched 2012 submission to the Gambling Harm Reduction Bill by the PGF had outlined the harms of gambling addictions, of which pokies are the most damaging. It also points to the lack of transparency and accountability in the allocation of public money to pokie trusts.
On the passing of the Bill, Green MP Denise Roche claimed that the National government had “hijacked” and “gutted” the Bill as a result of pressure from the pokie trusts.
The struggle over gambling addictions and the alleged corruption of the powerful Pokie Trusts has been going on for several years, with the government acting in support of the interests of these trusts in the gutting of the Gambling Harm Reduction Bill.
The PGF has also been outspoken about the association with gambling addictions and various criminal activities, including money laundering via casinos and pokies. See for instance the interview with ex PGF head John Stansfield on RNZ’s Panel, part 1, on 21 March 2014 (h/t joe90) – from 7 minutes into the audio.
[audio http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/aft/aft-20140321-1610-the_panel_with_susan_hornsby-geluk_and_nevil_gibson_part_1-048.mp3 ]
The removal of most of the funding for the PGF is the latest chapter in this struggle: a chapter in which the government bent over backwards to ensure that they are not linked with the decision.