Why does the TAB have a sports monopoly?

April 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Nathan Guy has announced:

A working group has been appointed to shed some light on the growth of New Zealanders engaging in offshore online racing and sports betting, Racing Minister Nathan Guy announced today.

I suspect “shed light” means trying to ban.

“The TAB is operated by the New Zealand Racing Board and has a national monopoly on all racing and sports betting.


Wouldn’t it be nice if National stood up for a belief in competition and choice and allowed any reputable provider who met accreditation standards to offer sports betting?

The Racing Board is required by law to distribute all profits from this betting back to the racing industry, which relies on these distributions to survive. National Sporting Organisations also receive a percentage of sports betting turnover,” says Mr Guy.

Again one could require all betting operators to give a percentage of betting turnover to respective sporting bodies, but allow competition.

“When New Zealanders place their sports and racing bets with overseas betting operators online, they operate outside of our regulatory framework. This means that offshore organisations make money on New Zealand racing and sports without paying their fair share of tax, or making contributions back to the racing industry or sporting organisations that make the betting possible in the first place.

“These New Zealanders are also operating outside the safety net of gambling harm mitigation that we have here,” says Mr Guy.

This sounds very nanny state like. If New Zealanders are choosing to use overseas betting sites, then that shows the monopoly held by the TAB is not satisfying New Zealanders. The solution is to allow choice and competition within NZ.

The working group will commence this month and is due to report back with recommendations for the Minister later this year.

The group will chaired by former Minister, Chris Tremain. Other members are: New Zealand Racing Board Chief Executive, John Allen; the Chair of Sport New Zealand, Sir Paul Collins; breeder, racehorse owner and the NZRB’s Thoroughbred representative, Greg McCarthy; and two Internal Affairs officials.

Chris Tremain is a good guy, but a group dominated by the racing industry is going to look at what is best for the racing industry, not what is best for the public good.

There is no chance they’re going to say the way to reduce NZers using overseas betting sites, is to allow more choice within NZ. They will probably try to criminalise NZers using overseas sites, or even worse demand the Internet be censored to try and prevent access to them.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pessimistic about where this may go.

Isn’t the solution to stop the delay?

February 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Betting cheats evicted from the Cricket World Cup opening match in Christchurch used multiple cellphones and laptops to relay information to people overseas willing to pay big money for the information, police say. 

A security expert said police probably knew who they were looking for before Saturday’s game began.

Police arrested “several” individuals and groups for courtsiding during the New Zealand versus Sri Lanka match at Hagley Oval.  

All were trespassed from future International Cricket Council events.

Courtsiding refers to a spectator at an event sending immediate information on game scores and activities before it is broadcast. The delay can be up to 15 seconds and allows people overseas to make spot bets.

Superintendent Sandy Manderson said yesterday that some of the cheats caught at Saturday’s game lived in New Zealand. The others were overseas visitors.  

Manderson said plainclothes police trained in spotting courtsiders, as well as members of the public, identified the men.

Why is this an offence, and why are Police spending time on it?

I’m all for cracking down on match fixing and the like. But this is not the same thing.

Trying to stop 40,000 people at a venue from communicating with the outside world is doomed to fail.

If an overseas bookie is stupid enough to keep taking bets on a game, while it is underway, then their stupidity does not need NZ Police protecting them. They could institute a rule that no bets within 30 seconds of a wicket are valid, due to the delay.

While not illegal in New Zealand, courtsiding is in breach of the terms of entry to matches at the Cricket World Cup.

So why are NZ Police involved?

State gambling up, other gambling down

February 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The DIA report:

Gamblers in New Zealand spent $2091 million dollars on the four main forms of gambling in the 2013/14 financial year, $19 million (0.9 per cent) more than the previous year, according to figures compiled by the Department of Internal Affairs. They spent more on racing, sport and lotteries; but less in casinos and on pub and club pokies.

· TAB racing and sports betting increased by 5.6 per cent, from $294 million to $311 million

· Spending on NZ Lotteries products rose 7.2 per cent, from $432 million to $463 million

· Spending on gaming machines (pokies) in pubs and clubs dropped by -2.2 per cent, from $826 million to $808 million; and

· Casino gambling expenditure declined by -2.1 per cent, from $520 million to $509 million.

So the two forms of gambling that are state monopolies have increased, while the two forms which get all the publicity in the media are actually decreasing.

When adjusted for inflation total gambling expenditure in 2014 declined by almost 20 per cent from a peak recorded in 2004 ($2610 million real dollars).

The better measure would be real spending per capita which would show an even larger decline.

Communities benefited from an estimated $613 million, or 29 per cent of gambling expenditure, for various purposes. · The New Zealand Racing Board allocated $137 million to racing club activities and infrastructure

Never understood why funds from gambling on all sports tend to go to the racing industry. The TAB should not have a monopoloy on sports betting.

· The NZ Lotteries Commission transferred $231 million to the Lottery Grants Board for distribution to community services and projects

· Non-casino gaming machine trusts raised an estimated $242 million for authorised community purposes; and,

· Casinos paid just over $3 million to their community trusts.

Almost half a billion there.

In addition, gambling operators pay a levy from their profits to meet the costs of an integrated problem gambling strategy – estimated to be $54 million (GST exclusive) for the current 2013-16 levy period.

That’s a huge amount. How effectively is that money being spent?

Fewer people gambling

December 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More than $2 billion is thought to be lost to gambling annually in New Zealand, but the number engaged in regular gambling has dropped off.

In 2012, researchers from AUT University and the National Research Bureau conducted the largest gambling survey since 1999, with 6251 adults taking part. The results have just been made public.

“The most notable finding was a substantial drop in the number of people who gamble weekly or more.

“In the present survey only 22 per cent of adults took part this often, compared to the 40 per cent in 1999 and 48 per cent in 1991, ” lead researcher Professor Max Abbott said.

So the number who regularly gamble is actually declining, not increasing. Useful to recall when we hear from taxpayer funded lobby groups demanding the Government give them more money to deal with problem gambling.

Now the PGF is after Lotto

October 8th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new daily Lotto game that offers tickets for $1 has been called unnecessary by anti-gambling campaigners.

Lotto New Zealand calls Play 3 “a fun, new game that’s unique from our other games”, but the Problem Gambling Foundation and budgeting services say it is not needed and increases the risk of harm.

Lotto already has three daily games, plus its big draw nights on Saturday and Wednesday.

The new game, which has a top prize of $500, involves picking a 3-digit number and matching it – either exactly, out of order or with two digits the same.

Players pay $1 per ticket, with the number drawn at 6pm each day. The first draw took place last night. There is no age limit, in common with all other Lotto games except its Instant Kiwi scratchcard.

In its briefing to incoming Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne in February, Lotto said it estimated Play 3 would increase revenue – which is close to $1 billion a year – by 1.1 per cent.

It is part of a strategy to grow sales that includes negotiating the sale of tickets at supermarket checkouts.

Problem Gambling Foundation spokeswoman Andree Froude asked whether a new game was justified.

This makes me think that the (taxpayer funded) PGF wants a world where we are not allowed to gamble. No Lotto, no Instant Kiwi, no casinos, no bingo, no horse racing, no sports betting. It would be a world without problem gambling, but also a world without fun.

We should help those who have an addiction, but not take away choice from millions of New Zealanders.

PGF suing to keep its nose in the trough

May 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Problem Gambling Foundation will this week take legal action to stop the Ministry of Health dumping it in favour of the Salvation Army.

The move comes as papers released under the Official Information Act show the PGF and the ministry embroiled in a long-running argument over the foundation’s right to speak out on gambling issues. It includes the ministry threatening to terminate the foundation’s contract if PGF didn’t halt a campaign called “pokie free and proud of it” promoting pokie-free pubs. The PGF has engaged Wellington lawyer Mai Chen to act for it.

So the PGF will use its existing taxpayer funding to try and force the Government to keep funding it – rather than the Salvation Army (which was judged better by an independent panel of public servants and experts).

The PGF has always been a vocal critic of pokie machine rorts and gambling harm. It believes, as an independent body with other income streams, it has the right to speak out. The ministry argues there should be no perception government money is being spent on campaigns.

The ministry fielded a series of complaints between 2010 and 2012 from Martin Cheer, chief executive of pokie trusts, Pub Charity, that PGF was “abusing the funding stream” and was not politically neutral. Cheer wrote to Dunne saying: “We would welcome any attention you could bring to bear on this matter.” Cheer was unable to comment. But an industry source said PGF had “not just shot themselves in the foot but blown it off” by not concentrating on their core work.

If the PGF was not overwhelming funded by the Government, then it could campaign for whatever it wants. In fact it should welcome losing the contract, because it frees itself up to be an advocate. They claim that they never spent government funds on their lobbying – so ipso facto the loss of the government funds can’t impact their lobbying.

The PGF was a partisan lobbyist. Their founder is the husband of a Green MP. Their campaigns manager is standing for Labour. Their original lawyer was a Labour Party office holder. Their just retired chairman is a former Labour MP. The Salvation Army also speak out on gambling issues – but they don’t make that the major focus of their work.

Less than 1% of their funding is from private donations. Just $3,143 out of $5.04 million. So the lawsuit is inevitably being funded by taxpayers to try and force us to keep funding them.


Will PGF use taxpayer funds to sue the taxpayer?

March 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Problem Gambling Foundation is seeking legal advice over a possible High Court challenge to a controversial Government decision to axe funding for most of its services for gambling addicts.

So because the Salvation Army was judged better able to provide support for gambling addicts, the PGF may use some of its money (90% taxpayer funded) on court action rather than actually helping gambling addicts. Shows their sense of priority.

The PGF has been claiming that the loss of its funding will silence its voice. This shows how much they have lost the plot. Taxpayers do not fund them to be a voice to lobby Government. That is explicitly illegal, ruled so by the Auditor-General. They are funded to provide support for gambling addicts. Any advocacy is meant to come out of their own funds.

So if they claim their loss of taxpayer funding will silence their voice, it is a de facto admission they have been illegally cross-subsidising their advocacy work from their taxpayer funding. This means it is no surprise that the Salvation Army were found to be better able to actually help problem gamlers.

In Stuff the PGF said:

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.

Yet in the same article he says:

Ramsey said the ministry’s decision, which strips away 77 per cent of the foundation’s budget and is likely to result in up to 52 job losses from a staff of 63, had the effect of “silencing the big voice against gambling”

So he is contradicting himself.

The answer of course is that the PGF used the taxpayer funding to massively fund their lobbying activities. It’s easy to do so. The biggest cost is always staff time, and you just have a proportion of the staff’s time spent on lobbying.

Now again I have no problems with lobbying – so long as it is not taxpayer funded lobbying.

Desperate lies

March 22nd, 2014 at 4:37 am by David Farrar



This is the latest advertisement from Labour. Its desperate stuff which I doubt would survive a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Note no mention of the fact that the PGF lost a contestable contract to the Salvation Army, who also spoke out against the deal. So the entire premise is a lie.

Also the decision was not made by Ministers. To quote Peter Dunne:

The process to retender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender.   The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members: three internal Ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.  

“The Ministry of Health has been particularly mindful to keep the process clearly separate from any perception of political interference. This extended to commissioning an independent review by Pricewaterhouse on its proposed decisions.

Also I understand the total amount being spent by the Ministry of Health on problem gambling is increasing by $750,000 over last year. So its a decision to increase funding and to go with a provider that will actually assist more people more effectively.

Labour seem to be upset because the PGF was a great source of taxpayer funding for their activists and candidates. Likewise the Greens haven’t mentioned that the former CEO is an active member of the Green Party and partner of a Green MP.

PGF loses contract to Salvation Army

March 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Government funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation has been scrapped, the organisation confirmed today amid rumours the service would be shut-down because it opposes National’s SkyCity convention centre deal.

The foundation issued a statement saying it had been informed by the Ministry of Health that from June 30 it would no longer be contracted for the bulk of its current services.

“While the ministry describes PGF as a valued provider of quality services it has told PGF it has a superior offer for the clinical and public health services PGF provides,” the foundation said.

The announcement came after Labour MP Trevor Mallard said he believed the foundation would be axed due to its stance against the SkyCity convention centre deal.

The PGF had “made themselves particularly unpopular with the Government and with the Ministry of Health”, Mr Mallard said last night.

First of all, the decision was not made by Government Ministers, but by the Ministry of Health. They are not reducing the amount they spend on helping problem gamblers – just another organisation or organisations put in a better bid for the funds. If more problem gamblers will be successfully assisted, this is a good thing.

The PGF seems to spend much of its times as a taxpayer funded lobby group, rather than actually helping problem gamblers. It is constitutionally outrageous for groups to be provided with taxpayer dollars so they can then lobby MPs and media on what they think government policy should be.

I’m all for lobby groups advocating for the views of their members. But lobby groups should be funded by their members and supporters, not by the taxpayers.

I support the taxpayer funding public health groups that mainly focus on assistance, not politics. Hence I support taxpayer funding of Quitline, but not of ASH (a lobby group). For gambling I support funding of organisations such as the Salvation Army that provide great assistance to problem gamblers. The Problem Gambling Foundation however spends a great proportion of its time on lobbying and media activity. Their website is all about how to get involved with campaigns to local councils or setting up local action groups. All fine activities, so long as the taxpayer isn’t paying for them – which we have been.

There is a line between groups that do occasional advocacy on issues of importance to them and groups mainly focused on advocacy. Again, the Salvation Army often submit on issues of gambling, alcohol etc. But they don’t make it the major focus of what they do. The Problem Gambling Foundation thought its role was more to lobby for policy it likes, than to provide support services for problem gamblers. Hence it is little surprise that another support group make a stronger case to the Ministry of Health that it would provide better services to problem gamblers than the Problem Gambling Foundation.

UPDATE: The organisation that has won the funding bid is the Salvation Army:

“The Ministry of Health has said it has received a ‘superior contract bid’ but as the foundation is the largest provider of problem gambling services in Australasia, it is hard to imagine a more qualified organisation to do this work.”

However, a spokesman from Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne’s office confirmed today that the other organisation was the Salvation Army.

The spokesman said the Salvation Army bid for the contract was more efficient, and offered more services and value for money.

Now the Salvation Army also opposed the Sky City deal, so suggesting the change in provider is because of the PGF’s opposition is misplaced. Basically they put in a better bid. I’m not surprised it was a better bid, because their primary focus is on helping problem gamblers, not lobbying. I understand the Ministry’s decision that the Salvation Army had the better bid was independently reviewed by PWC.

UPDATE2: Also worth thinking about how the PGF has reacted to the news they lost the tender. They immediately contact Trevor Mallard (no doubt through their public health manager who is a Labour Party candidate) and claim it was due to their opposition to Sky City. There are dozens of organisations out there who lose tenders when better bids are put in. Most don’t go running to Trevor Mallard to try and turn it into a political story. The fact they did so, shows how deeply political they had become.

Why does Labour think gambling is bad?

February 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard has said:

New Zealanders are the fourth biggest gamblers per head of population in the world – a shameful figure that Peter Dunne must take action to remedy, says Labour’s Internal Affairs spokesperson Trevor Mallard.

Why is that shameful?

If we were the 4th biggest spenders on coffee in the world, would that be shameful?

Around 0.3% to 1.8% of the population are problem gamblers. But that doesn’t mean all gambling is harmful, and that NZers spending a lot of money on gambling is bad.

80% of the population do enjoy buying a lotto ticket, taking part in raffles, the odd bet at the TAB, a night out at a casino, playing some pokies at a pub, sports betting at the TAB etc, and are not problem gamblers

Does Labour now regard all the enjoyment several million NZers get from gambling as shameful?

It is quite legitimate to say we should reduce the level of gambling harm. It is nanny state paternalism to however condemn all gambling as shameful and claim that NZers overall should be spending less.

Is Problem Gambling Foundation promoting fictional stories?

December 24th, 2013 at 8:33 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The Press Council has upheld a complaint from Lenni and Nuu Mamea about The Dominion Post’s reporting of a symposium organised by the Problem Gambling Foundation.

The August 24 article, on dompost.co.nz, featured the Mameas’ children telling a fictional story and poem about being victims in a family where the parents were problem gamblers. The children were also interviewed with parental consent.

Accompanied by a photograph of the children, the article – ‘Kids speak out against problem gambling’ – quoted from the poem and referred to the award-winning speech. It included the line, “The Mamea family has been working with the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGF) for two years, and the parents were recovering from the addictions.”

This turned out to be untrue in that the story and poem were fictional and the complainants were not problem gamblers.

So the PGF had a symposium about the effects of gambling on families, and the stories didn’t have to be true! And the prize went to a fictional account!

The full decision is here. An extract:

[The children] performed at a symposium that was promoted as featuring children sharing their personal stories about the impact of gambling on their lives. The Problem Gambling Foundation now admits it made a mistake in not verifying that the children’s performance came from their personal experience.

All media should be aware of this. The PGF uses invented stories.

Three members of the council, Clive Lind, Stephen Stewart and John Roughan, disagreed with the decision. They considered the case to be an unfortunate misunderstanding, primarily on the part of the Problem Gambling Foundation which put fictional material in front of a seminar billed as a forum “where children would share their personal stories through poetry and song about the impact gambling has had on their lives”. 

I wonder how much money the PGF gets from taxpayers and/or through levies to promote false stories?


Sky City got a quarter of what they wanted

July 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Documents made public yesterday show officials were surprised in November 2011 when the casino operator suddenly put compensation on the table. It came after SkyCity made a series of ambitious demands in return for building the Auckland facility, including 850 more pokie machines and lowering of the gambling age to 18.

And they got only 230, and no change to the gambling age (I think it should be 18 regardless incidentally).

Here’s a comparison of what they asked for, and got:

  • Perpetual extension of licence, got 27 year extension
  • 853 extra pokie machines, got 230
  • Lower gambling age to 18, stayed at 21
  • 150 automated multi-player gambling tables, got 12
  • $10 million a year to promote the convention centre, got nothing
  • The ability to promote jackpoint draws, not agreed to
  • Cashless pokie machines – agreed to
  • Pokie machines that can take $100 notes – agreed to in restricted areas

I’d say the Government drove a pretty hard bargain. Also kudos to them for releasing all these documents in advance of OIA requests, and not trying to say they are commercially sensitive and unable to be released It is good to have this full transparency.

Flavell on compromise

June 27th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Te Ururoa Flavell writes in the NZ Herald:

Parliament is not a place for dreamers who run and hide away when their dreams are crushed.

It is a place where negotiation happens, where consensus takes place, where change can happen if you know how the system works, and you are prepared to stick at it for the long haul.

When my bill came back from the select committee it was “gutted”. That’s right, there is no denying it.

But I wasn’t about to pull out on those communities who desperately need change. So I started working with the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Chris Tremain, on how to advance the many issues that my bill sought to address.

The result? Well, it is a broad package of class 4 gambling reforms – and while my bill has been plucked within an inch of its life, we have been promised that many of its precious plumes will be tucked away in a new home, within the regulatory and legislative reforms proposed by the Government.

The changes announced by Mr Tremain this week are a direct result of my bill, which was a catalyst for action. We raised the issue, we put it on the agenda, and this wider package is the result of our hard work.

What Flavell is saying is it is easy to grand-stand and make speeches on an issue. It is far harder to actually work with MPs and the Government to get legislative and policy reform.

The Mana Party is very good at being outraged and making speeches. but can they play a constructive role in Government?

Flavell’s Gambling Bill

June 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

The Government is promising more reform of non-casino gambling after a watered-down bill was reported back to Parliament yesterday.

Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain and Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell are due to announce a harm-minimisation package tomorrow.

That comes after a weakened version of Mr Flavell’s Gambling Harm Reduction Bill was reported back from the commerce select committee.

Prime Minister John Key said National and the Maori Party had found “some common ground”.

“I think the way Te Ururoa would see it is that . . . he’s got some wins.”

The bill aimed to return the proceeds of pokie machines to the communities they were made in and give local authorities more control over gambling operations.

But the committee rejected the plan to return 80 per cent of profits, instead allowing for regulations to ensure more of the proceeds returned to the same geographical area.

It also ruled out imposing the use of pre-commitment, player tracking, or other harm-minimisation devices, saying it would be “premature to mandate specific approaches”.

And it ruled out removing horse racing from the list that could receive gambling profits.

Labour reserved its decision on supporting the bill but the Greens will now vote against it.

I don’t like the status quo in terms of the relationships between some of the pubs, gaming operators and charitable trusts that distribute community funding. It is seriously flawed.

However what was proposed in the original Flavell bill would have almost led to political corruption. It proposed that local authorities be out in place of handing out money from pokie machines in their areas. That would have been terrible. Could you imagine the patronage as local Councillors give money out to various local groups, in return for their support.

So what were some of the changes made to the bill:

  • Requiring councils to take over the distribution of funds – no submitters supported this, including the councils. It would have been a significant extra burden for them and would have politicised the grants process. It is a no brainer that this was deleted from the Bill.
  • Requiring 80% of proceeds to be distributed locally – this makes sense in principle, but 80% may not be the right amount, and the mechanism set out in the Bill (to require it in gaming societies’ licence conditions) was rather inflexible. The revised Bill allows the same thing to be achieved through regulations, which can be changed much more easily. There is no suggestion that the Government won’t proceed with regulations, so this is not a question about the policy, just the mechanism.
  • Requiring the use of harm minimisation devices – again, the Bill would have imposed this on societies through their licence conditions. The revision enables regulations to be made instead, which would actually allow a nationwide policy, rather than setting it through individual licences. Regulations are also more flexible to allow for new technologies as they become available. Again, the Bill has simply been changed to provide for a different mechanism, not to water down what Flavell is seeking.

Flavell has actually actually achieved some very significant policy changes, compared to the status quo. His bill has been re-drafted almost totally, but that is because with respect it was very badly worded – as many members’ bills are – as they don’t have PCO and government departments able to do it for them.

By focusing on the outcomes, rather than the mechanisms, Flavell has managed to get a pretty good victory – especially as his original bill could easily have merely been voted out as unworkable.

It will be interesting to see what the Greens do with their lobbying bill. The bill as worded is unworkable and draconian – something even they acknowledge. It would make some tweets between MPs and some members of the public on policy issues an offence. Will they compromise on the mechanisms proposed to get a bill that is workable, or will they insist on no significant changes leading to it being voted down? It is far easier to grand-stand than to actually achieve a workable solution.

Having to pay people to join the Labour party

February 22nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar


Young Labour are having to bribe people with the chance of a week’s worth of cash, to join the Labour Party.

Oh dear. I didn’t realise things were that bad.

But an interesting contrast considering how often Labour goes on about the evils of gambling and pokie machines and the like – and they use a gambling device as a recruitment device.


Another silly gambling law

November 6th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

However, the Department of Internal Affairs warns that office sweepstake prize money cannot exceed $500 and those who breach the rules could face the long arm of the law.

This means tickets for the 24-horse race can cost no more than $20.83, according to a spokesman.

Any money raised must be returned as prizes and no one is allowed to profit from organising the sweepstake.

Violating these regulations could incur a fine of up to $1000. 

So a $21 dollar per horse sweepstake is illegal! DIA has no choice but to enforce the law, but it shows why we need wide-spread reform of our Victorian era gambling laws. The TAB should not have a sports betting monopoly for a start.

An Act that needs repealing

October 21st, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Celeste Gorrell Anstiss at HoS reports:

Internal Affairs has mounted a crackdown on big spot prizes at expos and fishing competitions, warning organisers they constitute illegal gambling.

Officials have sent cease-and-desist letters to 15 organisations, informing them that events with an entry fee cannot have door giveaways, raffles or barrel draws with prizes worth more than $500.

Beach and Boat Fishing Competition organiser Tony Wheeler has put ticket sales to New Zealand’s biggest fishing tournament on hold, after receiving the letter this month. He is scrambling to figure out how to comply with the Department of Internal Affairs’ strict conditions.

Only certain licensed organisations, like the Lotteries Commission, charitable trusts and SkyCity casino, are allowed to run games of chance.

DIA are just doing their job, but it is a silly law. Our gambling laws like monopolies. Just one casino per city, if that. TAB have a monopoly on sports betting. The Lotteries Commission on large games of chance etc.

There should be some rules around transparency such as clearly stating the chance of winning and the percentage of receipts that will be paid back as prizes.

The crackdown comes after a complaint from a pokies trust, which argued that its business was being undermined by events like A&P shows and trade shows that give away spot prizes such as cars, boats and holidays.

Wheeler’s annual competition is the biggest fishing tournament in the country with 2100 competitors and more than $220,000 worth of spot prizes, including a boat and a car. The heavily-promoted $100,000 prize for catching a special snapper – tagged by the officials and thrown back in – is alleged to breach the Gambling Act.

Catching a tagged fish requires some knowledge or skill, but Internal Affairs believes winning relies on a large element of chance. Fishing competitions are still allowed to award prizes for catching the most fish, or the biggest fish, because this is regarded as skill.

We should just change the law so DIA doesn’t have to waste time deciding whether catching a particular fish is skill or chance. For my 2c it involves skill. Sure you need luck for that particular fish to come along, but you need skill to keep it on the line.

30 to 1 on Boris

July 26th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

What are the odds of a UFO sighting during the London Olympics opening ceremony? Or of the final torch bearer tripping as they ascend to light the flame? Or would you prefer a more traditional wager on the battle for gold between Russia and Spain in synchronized swimming duos?

London betting houses will offer odds on almost anything, including all 26 sports at the games, from the 100-metre dash to fencing, from diving to football. The industry expects to handle a record 100 million pounds (NZ$197 million) in wagers during the July 27-August 12 competition – even some pretty outlandish parlays.

A shame our gaming laws are so restrictive.

William Hill offers perhaps the longest odds of the games: 1000-to-1 that a flying saucer will appear over Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony. Tough luck, presumably, if aliens don’t make first contact until the next day.

Other longshots get slightly better odds, like 250-to-1 that every team in the 4×400-metre relay final drops the baton, or 33-to-1 that flamboyant London Mayor Boris Johnson accidentally lights his hair on fire with the Olympic torch.

I’d be tempted to place some money on Boris self-immolating 🙂

Guest Post: Gambling in Australia

April 15th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Australians are incessant, almost pathological gamblers.

If two kookaburras land on a tree miles in the outback, it’s a fair bet that within minutes a bookie is making odds as to which one will fly away first.

Latest figures available show $69 a year is bet for every man, woman and child in Australia.

“Most forms of gambling are legal in Australia, and the activity is highly popular. The average adult Aussie will lose about $1,000 (US $679) on gambling each year. This means that Australians lose more money per adult at gambling than any other group on the planet. This number has increased 2½ times over the last 25 years. In fact, more money is spent on gambling than on sporting, cultural or entertainment events.” -world gambling review website.

Australia, with 360, has more racecourses than any other country in the world. Poker machines make up 56% of the gambling industry here. In Brisbane you can go to a race meeting every day of the week if you want. Within two hours drive there are courses at Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Beaudesert, Gold Coast plus two in the city, Eagle Farm and Doomben, the two just across the road from each other.

Gambling addiction is a huge problem, a 2010 report by one hospital showed 17% of attempted suicides were problem gamblers.

Recently the Gillard Government, cheered on by Independent Andrew Wilkie, threatened to introduce “mandatory pre commitment” for pokie gamblers. This would require EVERY gambler to set a limit before he, or she, said down to mindlessly pull a handle or push a button.

This was well intentioned nonsense. Firstly, it treated all gamblers as if they were addicts, and secondly, a gambler could set any limit at all, from $1 to a gazillion. The Lib/Nat coalition’s response was even worse: they proposed voluntary pre commitment. What’s next, asking every smoker to sign a piece of paper saying they wouldn’t take more than two puffs a day, but nothing would happen to them if they didn’t keep their promise?

The chartered clubs, a huge industry here, went ballistic. They rely on pokie revenue to such an extent that one club near where I live offers lifetime membership for $1. No, not $1 a year, a buck for the rest of your life!

But the clubs did a very clever thing. Rather than taking up the example of the billionaires of the mining industry and entering a full on war which made the newspapers lots of money in advertising, the clubs kept their powder dry and sat down and talked to the government. It worked and the legislation was watered down.

Wilkie went into a sulk, Abbott looked silly and, for once, Gillard pulled a handle and landed the aces. Labor backbenchers, reliant on gambling votes, heaved a huge sigh of relief,

Bookmakers are legal in Australia. In NZ they are not, except for the TAB, which can offer what is called “fixed prices”. “Tote odds” are also available.

Tote odds means the winners receive back all the money gambled, less taxes and the TAB’s take. That way the TAB doesn’t care which horse wins, the total payout is always the same.

A bookie sets his own odds relying on his skill and knowledge. So he hopes an outsider wins so he doesn’t have to pay out much. When a hot favourite gets rolled, the bookies smile.

The NZ TAB is, in my opinion, a rotten bookie. The moment a horse is subject to a decent bet it brings its price down. A good bookie, confident in his knowledge and ability would keep the price the same and invite a big punter to “have another go”.

There are legends of battles between big (and I mean BIG) punters and top bookies. One tells of a punter who put $250,000 on a 10-1 shot. Come again, smiled the bookmaker and put the price up two points. The punter wagered another 250k. The horse lost.

In my heyday I enjoyed a punt. Not big, the most I ever put on a horse was $200 at 10-1. It won easily.

I once collected over $3000 for a $10 bet. I bet that four horses in different races would all run a place at good odds and they all did.

Gambling can be fun or can lead to misery. The simple rule is: Don’t gamble money you can’t afford to lose.

Good punting!

I consider our gaming laws relics from Queen Victoria. Some changes I would make:

  • Remove the TAB monopoly on sports betting
  • Allow Internet gambling (esp as Kiwis just user overseas sites anyway)
  • Allow any Casino operator that meets good character tests to set up a casino in a suitable area

Judge Harvey on online gambling advertising

July 10th, 2010 at 10:49 am by David Farrar

The Herald has an interesting story on a ruling by Judge David Harvey:

The poker news websites went wild. “New Zealand Court Backs Poker” proclaimed gamblingonlinemagazine.com. “In a groundbreaking ruling a New Zealand court has delivered a huge blow to opponents of online poker, and poker in general,” said pokernewsboy.com.

“Though they may be an ocean away, the nation of New Zealand has fired a shot which could reverberate through the poker landscape,” said flopturnriver.com.

What they were all raving about was a ruling District Court Judge David Harvey delivered on June 23 which found that advertisements for Pokerstars.net and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour run on TV3 and C4 were not promoting online gambling.

The Department of Internal Affairs, which brought the case, has said it will appeal the decision.

The details of the case are interesting. Essentially pokerstars.net is a play money gambling site (which is legal) and pokerstars.com is a proper gambling site (which can not be promoted under NZ law). DIA argued that by advertising one, they were advertising both, essentially.

A feature of the case was the difference between the “dot net” and “dot com” Pokerstars websites. The .net site is for practise poker games using “play money”. The .com site has online poker with gambling for real money. A key plank of Internal Affairs’ case was that the use of the generic word “Pokerstars” in both the.net and .com domain names were two ways of saying the same thing. “It is the prosecution case,” says the judgment, “that the advertisements were de facto advertisements for pokerstars.com, using and emphasising the brand name ‘pokerstars’.”

I’m sceptical of that argument.

Judge David Harvey is widely regarded as New Zealand’s most technologically savvy judge. Appointed to the bench in 1988 he serves in the District Court holding warrants for general, jury and Youth Court jurisdictions. A former chair of the Copyright Tribunal, he lectures part-time in law and information technology at the University of Auckland, has been involved in the introduction of information technology for the Judiciary since 1990, and is the author of internet.law.nz – Selected Issues. A former international Mastermind champion (his speciality was J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), he writes widely on law and internet topics, is currently completing a PhD and has been active in making submissions on our laws relating to copyright and legislating against spam.

I first met Judge Harvey through the old Internet newsgroups on Usenet. He qualifies as a genuine geek 🙂

This time around Judge Harvey appears to have taken an important lesson from his earlier mis-step – that judges must always make the reasons for their decisions abundantly clear. His judgment extends to 47 pages. It’s also New Zealand’s first digital judgment – a 9MB “PDF” digital document, complete with embedded video of the advertisements in question. It sits in the court file, not on paper, but on a CD.

Heh that is quite cool – an embedded video in a court judgement. A pity it does not appear to be online on the decisions of public interest site.

In response to the evidence of prosecution expert witness Professor Sarah Todd, a professor of marketing, Judge Harvey said he had concerns about the basis of her assumption – that there was a high chance those intending to go to the free pokerstars.net site, may in fact, end up on the pokerstars.com by accident. “Internet addresses are unforgiving of errors. A mistake in one letter of a domain name may produce a nil result or may direct a user to a completely different website.”

He then pointed out the sort of mistake suggested involves typing three wrong letters and seemed to overlook the fact the advertising was directed to online poker sites, anticipating an audience with some familiarity in the use of computers and the internet.

The judgment also goes through each of the advertisements – and provides the videos so that people reading the text can see for themselves what was being advertised. The web address shown in each advertisement is always pokerstars.net and often includes the words “this is not a gambling website” or “play for free”. In some of the ads, professional poker players are linked to popular sports – Noah Boeken plays soccer, Daniel Negreanu hockey and Isabelle Mercier boxes. Their commentaries include lines like, “Practise for free at the world’s largest poker site, pokerstars.net and find the pokerstar in you.”

Looks a very reasonable decision to me. Finding TV Works guilty for promoting a legal website on the basis it has a similar name to a website that can not be legally promoted, would set in my opinion an unhealthy precedent.

Editorials 12 February 2010

February 12th, 2010 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald calls for a temporary fix for Queens Wharf.

Three options released yesterday by the Minister for the Rugby World Cup, Murray McCully, provide alternatives for this. The cheapest, at $23.9 million, involves removing the ugly sheds from the wharf and creating a temporary village. The two others, at $27.2 million and $31.3 million, envisage the sheds being refurbished for the “party”. That represents no choice at all, given the sheds will remain an embarrassing eyesore no matter how much they are tarted up. They must go.

The Press is concerned about Iran. I doubt the feeling is mutual 🙂

This week the bellicose Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, defied a string of United Nations sanctions resolutions and ordered the firing up of dozens of centrifuges to greatly increase his country’s output of enriched uranium. Although the product these facilities will produce is only to a level needed to run nuclear power stations and is not of sufficiently high grade to create nuclear weapons, it is a crucial technical step up in Iran’s nuclear programme. Having mastered the techniques required to produce this material, the next step to create weapons-grade material is a relatively simple one. And almost no-one believes Iran’s repeated denials that it intends eventually to take that next step. …

Iran with nuclear weapons, or military action to prevent it getting them, are highly undesirable alternatives. But if the world wants to avert them diplomacy must not be allowed to fail.

I think it pretty much already has failed.

The Dominion Post rails against pokie machines:

Gamblers pump about $1 billion a year into machines in pubs, RSAs and sports clubs. Of that, about a third finds its way back to the community via gaming trusts. (The rest is consumed by the Government, in the form of taxes, as well as by pubs and clubs and the gaming machine trusts.)

The majority of machines are concentrated in lower socio-economic areas. Newtown, for example, has 72. Khandallah, Thorndon, Kelburn and Wadestown have none. However, the proceeds are distributed evenly across communities. That means the people who frequent gaming machines in poorer neighbourhoods are subsidising the sporting and cultural pursuits of their neighbours in wealthier parts of town.

For this reason, and many others, tentative Wellington City Council proposals to gradually lower the number of machines in five “areas of concern” – Tawa, Johnsonville, Miramar, Karori and Newtown – are welcome.

I disagree. Gambling is effectively a tax on stupidity. the left always go on about how we should tax bad things more. Well stupidity is a bad thing, and if the taxpayer and community groups can make money from stupid people, then that is fine with me – so long as there is total transparency about odds – ie people know that over time they are almost certain to lose money.

The ODT looks at Sarah Palin:

Her popularity is as baffling as it is perhaps frightening to liberal intellectuals, Democrats – and, some suggest – to old-school Republicans whose most fervent wish is to retake the White House in 2012 and who fear her potentially divisive influence on the party. …

She may embody all the colourful hyperbole and grammatical integrity of a hastily penned country and western anthem, but down-home, emotive, illogical, God-fearing and at times disturbingly ignorant, she epitomises a certain cross-section of the electorate.

As such Mrs Palin is a potentially powerful influence on the future course of US politics.

Mainstream political forces will continue to dismiss her at their peril.

She may of course self-destruct at some stage. What will be interesting is how many GOP candidates ask her to appear with them in the mid-terms in November.

No Wellington casino

December 14th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A developer’s plan to build a casino in Wellington appears doomed after Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy ruled out a law change required for it to proceed.

Backers of the proposed billion-dollar project in Shelly Bay – which also includes a luxury apartment block and a gondola at the prime harbourside site – need the previous government’s moratorium on new casinos lifted if the centrepiece of the development is to go ahead.

But Mr Guy, who has responsibility for gambling, said changing the law was not in the pipeline and, even if it was, doing so would be a lengthy process.

“Any change to the law would be a decision for the Cabinet and caucus and would require extensive discussion with the wider community,” he said.

“At this stage, the Government has no plans to change the law.”

That’s a real shame. It is bizarre that the Government thinks Wellingtonians can not be trusted to have a casino.

I don’t think there should be any limit on the number of casinos. There should be rules around how they operate, but I don’t see it as the role of the state to determine which cities or towns are allowed one, and which are not.

Poll on Morality

September 14th, 2009 at 7:53 pm by David Farrar

I’ve just blogged at curiablog, on a morality poll by UMR. Respondents were asked how morally acceptable (or unacceptable certain activities were. Below is the morally acceptable score for each activity and the net acceptable score (acceptable less unacceptable)

From most to least acceptable, they were:

  1. Divorce 81%, +68%
  2. Sex outside marriage 77%, +59%
  3. Having baby outside marriage 71%, +48%
  4. Stem cell research 63%, +38%
  5. Homosexual relations 61%, +29%
  6. Euthanasia 55%, +18%
  7. Abortion 55%, +21%
  8. Gambling 52%, +10%
  9. Animal medical testing 52%, +12%
  10. Wearing or buying fur 48%, +4%
  11. Death Penalty 43%, -7%
  12. Animal Cloning 27%, -40%
  13. Suicide 20%, -48%
  14. Married people having affairs 13%, -70%
  15. Polygamy 11%, -74%
  16. Human cloning 7%, -81%

Now this was asking about moral acceptability, not legality. So while only 55% think abortion is morally acceptable, that doesn’t mean only 55% think it should be legal.

Now what would my answers have been. None of the first ten I would regard as morally unacceptable. I do regard the death penalty as unacceptable – not keen on states being able to kill it citizens. Tend to regard suicide as morally unacceptable in most circumstances but not all (ie terminally ill). While generally I think it is not a good idea for married people to have affairs (and if married I would not), I’m wouldn’t label it as morally unacceptable as it is between those two people. I don’t think polygamy should be legal but nor do I regard it as morally unacceptable. And finally I don’t believe human cloning is automatically morally unacceptable.  I favour very very tight restrictions on it, but think there are potential benefits.

So bottom line is there is very little I believe is always morally unacceptable. Mainly just the death penalty really.

I’m sure very few here will agree with me!

Fun Police want to limit Lotto

June 17th, 2009 at 7:40 am by David Farrar

Is there nothing the Fun Police don’t want to stop or restrict?

On the day of a record $26 million Big Wednesday Lotto draw, gambling counsellors are calling for a lower limit on lottery jackpots.

Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey wants the $30 million cap on jackpots – doubled from $15 million in 2005 – to be cut to $12.5 million, which is below the level at which the public usually gets excited.

Oh yes we can’t have people getting excited.

If you accept the notion that because a very small minority of people have a problem with an activity, then everyone should be prevented from taking part in an activity – well we end up with a sterile society.

But the Lotteries Commission appears happy to see jackpot limits go even higher.

In a November briefing paper to then Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth, the commission said it was looking into joining a proposed “world lottery” headed by Britain’s National Lottery.

“It is very likely that participation would entail lifting the current $30 million prize limit set on our games,” the paper said.

Great. There should be no limit. So long as there is transparency over the odds of winning, we should be able to have as big a prize pool as people want.

And while we are at it, why does the state have a monopoly in Lotto?

Check the law

January 20th, 2009 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

The Press reported this morning:

The Redwood home could be yours for a little more than $100, despite its rating value of $594,000.

The most the lucky buyer will pay is $1100.

Real estate agent Brad Maxwell and wife Janice own the Redwood property through a family trust and are selling it through a new sales method they hope will catch on.

Would-be buyers will book a seat at an internet auction for $100 each, with the lowest unique bid between 1c and $1000 getting the house.

The Maxwells have ensured they will not lose out on the deal. They have calculated that selling between 5000 and 6000 seats will bring in what they want for their home, and only then will the online auction run.

The DIA pointed out, this was illegal in several ways:

However, Internal Affairs gambling compliance manager Debbie Despard said today this was illegal gambling.

Despard said under the Gambling Act 2003 the auction was illegal in several ways.

“There is a huge element of chance in this so-called auction in which people pay to participate,” Despard said.

“It is also online gambling, which the Act defines as ‘remote interactive gambling’.”

Gambling with prizes exceeding $500 can only be conducted by societies raising money for authorised charitable purposes, she added. But this sales scheme was being conducted by a private person for personal profit and could not be licensed.

“Participating in illegal gambling is a criminal offence,” said Despard.

Furthermore, any sale and purchase agreement stemming from the auction would be on shaky ground because the Gambling Act says contracts relating to illegal gambling are illegal for the purposes of the Illegal Contracts Act.

Internal Affairs had advised the Trade Me and Premier Realty that the proposed sales method was illegal and was also contacting the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

DIA do a good job in educating people on the law. They’ve given me some helpful advice from time to time.

Having said that, our gaming laws are very restrictive and it would be great if the Government reviewed them with an eye towards permitting more gaming, so long as there is adequate transparency around the games.

I have problems with the TAB having a monopoly over sports betting, and the restrictions on online gaming which are more onerous than Australia.

But these are issues for the Government and ultimately Parliament.