By Dan Satherley
A bill that would force casinos to give back profits derived from criminal activity is not likely to pass its first reading.
United Future leader Peter Dunne has told 3 News he won't be supporting Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei's Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment.
Ms Turei says the law currently doesn't force casinos to pay back proceeds generated through criminal activity if the casino didn't know about it. Her bill would require casinos to pay back such proceeds even if they didn't know about it, but would have if they had used "best international practise in detecting problem gambling and criminal activity".
"Casinos have access to advanced technologies for detecting criminal activity and fraud," Ms Turei said last month, when the bill was drawn from the ballot. "They have host responsibility programmes that should ensure alarm bells go off when risky gambling occurs."
The bill has support from Labour, Mana, New Zealand First and the Maori Party, but without Mr Dunne's vote is doomed to fail, as it is also opposed by National and ACT.
"The Gambling Act already places a requirement on casinos to adopt policies to identify problem gamblers and requires them to minimise the harm from problem gambling," says ACT leader John Banks. "If they don’t comply they can be fined and risk losing their licence."
Mr Banks says other Acts such as the Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1996 and the anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act, which comes into force next year, will "put in place a more robust regime to monitor, detect, and report suspicious activity to prevent money laundering".
"Good intentions are one thing but it’s outcomes that really matter," says Mr Banks. "This bill would create unnecessary layers of regulation for no additional benefit."
Mr Dunne's office said he would not be supporting the bill for similar reasons, adding that it would be "difficult to enforce".
The Government yesterday reaffirmed its plan to let Sky City install more gaming machines in its Auckland casino if it paid for the construction of a $350 million convention centre.
Under questioning from the Greens' Denise Roche, Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce said the centre would generate 1,000 temporary jobs in the construction sector.
"I appreciate that every time the Greens see an opportunity they want to stop it, but the rest of us actually have to be focused on all the opportunities we can have to grow investment and jobs in this country," says Mr Joyce.
Ms Turei however says casinos are "engines of crime", and should have no part in the Government's jobs plan.
“The Green Party has laid out a plan for job creation, and a new convention centre could be a great thing for Auckland. But we don’t believe a centre should be built on a backroom deal between the casino and the Government, which has agreed to change the law so that Sky City can expand its pokies business."
She says research in Australia shows increasing the number of gaming machines funnels money away from productive sectors, and is "likely to lead to the shedding of jobs in the more job-intensive retail industry".
The bill will be voted on in Parliament on December 5.