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Dunedin Casino licence suspended

Published: 12:16PM Wednesday October 18, 2006 Source: One News

The roulette wheels and pokie machines have been spinning at Dunedin casino for seven years, but within the next month, they will lay silent for two consecutive days.

"This will be a real wakeup call for the casinos, I mean basically they have a monopoly situation in New Zealand and they have a strong responsibility under the Gambling Act to take host responsibility seriously" says David Coomb.

The Gambling Commission has found the casino did not do enough to help gambler Christine Keenan, who cycled $6.6 million through the casino in three years.

Keenan lost a net $400,000 during that period, having gambled away her inheritance, her divorce settlement and the proceeds of a house sale, before stealing from her employers.

Under the 2003 Gambling Act casinos must try to minimise any harm caused. 

After weeks of hearings the Gambling Commission has found the casino breached that law and has imposed a two-day suspension, which the casino must take within a month.

It is the first time a New Zealand casino hasbeen punished for breaching the act.

"The Department asked for a seven day suspension.  I think what's important in this case is the precedent has been set.  And it sets a bench mark in the sector as to responsibilities of gambling operators in terms of their responsibilities" says Mike Hill of the Department of Internal Affairs.

But some are saying the suspension does not go far enough.

"The whole community has paid a huge price and over that period of three years that Christine Keenan was gambling, the casino were the winners" says Toomb.

Gambling Watch has accused the Gambling Commission of "copping out" by only delivering the two-day penalty.

The gambling watchdog says the Dunedin Casino management had been aware of the extent of Keenan's gambling and had treated her as a valued customer.

"Here we have a person jailed after losing her major assets, a family victimised and an employer robbed, and the Commission thinks the gambling company that failed to act to prevent this should only receive 1% of the maximum penalty available," says GamblingWatch co-ordinator Dave Macpherson

The casino has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the decision.

Internal Affairs says the suspension sends a strong message to casinos about the importance of host responsibility.

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