Judge to Weigh in on SkyCity Smoking Ban Exemption

For years, New Zealand’s Cancer Society and the Ministry of Health have been at odds over smoking lounge in SkyCity’s VIP area. Now, the Cancer Society has enlisted in Justice John Hansen to decide whether smoking should be permitted in the area once and for all.

The Diamond Lounge is considered an open area, allowing patrons to smoke, but the Cancer Society does not agree with this definition. Last year, the Ministry of Health sent investigators to determine just how open the space was, and it was deemed an open enough space to permit smoking. Representatives of the Cancer Society continued to disagree, and have decided to take the issue to court.

According to Duncan Webb of the Cancer Society, the Ministry of Health made “a fundamental error in the investigative process.” As such, the organization wants a second opinion.

Justice Hansen will offer up his take on the issue. His decision will provide the final conclusion for the case. The Cancer Society has fought long and hard to have the smoking ban exemption removed, and this will be the organization’s last chance to prove that the Diamond Lounge should be a smoke-free area.

No SkyCity Deal for Queenstown Yet

Over the course of the past few weeks, rumours have been circulating that SkyCity will be building a new casino and convention centre in Queenstown. Local politicians were outraged at the fact, and made their concerns known during a Q & A with Mayor Vanessa van Uden. She put these worries to rest by announcing that no deal had been done.

“There’s been quite a lot of assumption that the deal has already been done with the casino, so let’s get that out on the table loud and clear now, there has not been a deal done with SkyCity”, she said. “They were one of the consortium members in terms of operating the convention centre, there have been some subsequent discussions but certainly not a deal done.”

Van Uden addressed a room full of concerned politicians and residents last week. She announced that a deal had not yet been finalized, and that it would need to pass legislation before any property could be constructed. Van Uden also encouraged local residents to make submissions on the issue, letting the council know how they could feel about a new casino in the area.

Some residents believe that a referendum is essential in making the decision. However, van Uden is not entirely convinced. She has stated that any requests for a referendum should be made through submissions. If there enough interest, she will consider a referendum.

BNZ Closes SkyCity Branch

After coming under fire from responsible gambling advocates many times, SkyCity’s Bank of New Zealand location has finally closed. Neither the casino operator nor BNZ has provided any specifics on why this has been the case – but we imagine it is likely due to the number of scandals in which the bank has been involved.

Last year, Herminia Lanuza stole more than $2 million from her employer using the BNZ branch. She then gambled the money away at SkyCity VIP room. Accountant Richard Watson was also involved in a scandal with BNZ, using the bank to steal $5.5 million in order to fund his problem gambling habit.

The bank’s location and opening hours (14 hours a day) was not believed to be entirely responsible. During a time when politicians want to remove ATMs from gambling venues, it seems that a casino-based bank was not conducive to promoting New Zealand’s new harm reduction strategies. At any time, a problem gambler could not only withdraw money but also cash cheques and conduct other banking.

“Banks and ATMs close to where people gamble are not a good idea,” says Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey.

It seems like a wise move for both SkyCity and BNZ. The bank will be relocating the new future, but has yet to announce where its new branch will be.

SkyCity’s VIP Lounge Could Lose Smoking Privileges

SkyCity Auckland is stuck in the middle of a debate between the Cancer Society and the local government. The organization has challenged the government’s smoking ban policy and SkyCity’s VIP lounge could lose its indoor smoking privileges.

Despite New Zealand’s new indoor smoking ban rules, there are some areas that remain exempt. Patrons are not normally allowed to smoking inside casinos and other entertainment venues but the government’s definition of an ‘outdoor area’ has made it possible for the Diamond Lounge in SkyCity Auckland to allow players to smoke inside.

If the government redefines an outdoor area and it affects the Diamond Lounge, representatives state that they will not fight the decision. The casino will ban smoking in the VIP room, and officials state that the move will not have significant negative effects on its business. SkyCity has also refused to testify in the Cancer Society’s case against the government, so the operator is not entirely worried about losing profits as a result of banning smoking.

Nigel Morrison, chief executive of SkyCity, admits that he would like his casino to offer players the ability to smoke indoors, as many patrons are in fact smokers. However, he does understand that attitudes about smoking continue to change and that now could be the time for SkyCity to update its policies on the matter.

SkyCity Auckland Player Faces Fines for Cheating

In casinos, millions of dollars are passed from player to player on a daily basis. So, it is no wonder that some casino staff and players feel the urge to take more than their fair share. Fortunately, New Zealand casino operators like Sky City are equipped with the sophisticated technology required to catch cheaters and their accomplices.

These sophisticated systems threw a wrench in the plans of Bo Du, a casino dealer that had worked at SkyCity for more than six years. She was only allowed to scam $50 000 from the casino by the time the casino operator discovered that she had been accepting cash gifts from patrons in return for manipulating the outcome of roulette games. She ensured that the ball dropped just before the betting ended, allowing her accomplices to wager on the correct outcome.

It did not take long before management discovered the operation. Du and several casino patrons were apprehended for their crimes. The former casino dealer was placed on house arrest and has been ordered to pay SkyCity $20 000 in damages. She has also been blacklisted from working at any other casino venue in the world. The penalties that the patrons received have yet to be announced.

Authorities Suspect Money Laundering Took Place at SkyCity Auckland

Authorities normally keep a watchful eye on local casinos, as they suspect that criminals congregate at these gambling venues. Their reason for this is that criminals often choose to launder money at casinos, since there is already so much money passing hands between players, dealers and the casino itself. This week, it was discovered that a local meth manufacturer may have been playing at SkyCity casino in order to launder money, and local police are investigating the issue.

Roy Allan Duncan, well-known drug manufacturer, is a VIP player at SkyCity casino in Auckland. Over the years, he and his wife have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the venue – and police have reason to doubt that their winnings were genuine.

According to police reports, Duncan used a popular method for money laundering. He would deposit money into a poker machine and cancel the transaction before wagering on the game. As a result, he would receive his money back; however, it was not his money that he would receive. Since he received a cash out ticket, his ‘winnings’ consisted of other players’ deposits – successfully laundering his own money.

Duncan disputes these claims. He states that he is simply an experienced gambler who knows how to win at pokies. Unfortunately for him, this defence is unlikely to hold up in court, as new digital technology makes it impossible to predict the outcome of modern-day pokies.

Draft of SkyCity Convention Centre Inquiry Released

Ever since Prime Minister John Key announced his plans to allow SkyCity to build Auckland’s new convention centre in return for 500 new poker machines, the public has expressed concern. Many residents are worried that the local government is in the pocket of the casino operator while others believe that the deal would result in an increase in problem gambling. To address these questions and concerns, The Greens requested an inquiry into the issue. It has recently been released, with drafts being sent to relevant parties.

The Auditor General has spent the past six months drafting the inquiry. Normally, inquiries take up to 3 months; however, for complex cases, more time is required. As such, this inquiry is likely to contain a lot of information that the general public will need to know.

In addition to determining the feasibility of allowing SkyCity to build the new convention centre, the inquiry will also examine the potential for problem gambling rates to rise. It will also publish the potential benefits and drawbacks of the new convention centre deal, providing a well-rounded look at the situation.

“We consult as necessary on its contents to ensure that it is factually accurate and that the rights of any affected parties are properly protected,” says a spokesperson for the Office of the Auditor General.

Prime Minister John Key and SkyCity have received copies of the draft. However, Key states that he has not provided any feedback and nor has he spoken to SkyCity about it. Greens Leader Metiria Turei states that Key should take his time with this part of the inquiry process, as she is concerned that any announcements made on the subject during the holiday season will go unnoticed in the general public.

However, regardless of when the document is release, we are certain that residents will weigh in on the topic. This is an important issue for New Zealand citizens and they will certainly voice their opinions.

Super Brothel To Be Built Near SkyCity

The Chow Group is rubbing plenty of New Zealand residents the wrong way with its proposal for a new ‘super brothel, planned to be built across by SkyCity Auckland. The 15-storey building has received the go-ahead from the local planning committee, although locals are not pleased with the news – and they will be making their voices heard at a council meeting to be held this month.

The plan for super brothel is a multi-storey building, with a hotel, office buildings and restaurants. The brothel will be hosted on one of the floors, while the rest of the building will serve other purposes, for work and entertainment.

Chow Group’s plans have checked out with the local planning committee, as the building will not harm the environment or interfere with current infrastructure. However, the local community still needs to pass judgement on the new venue. 220 submissions have been made in opposition to the plan, and the individuals behind them will be speaking out this month.

There is no word yet on whether SkyCity of any of its representatives have made submissions, although the company did not seem very pleased when the idea was introduced in February 2012. SkyCity issued a statement, calling the venue inappropriate as it would be placed in a tourist centre, but the company has no spoken out in response to the council’s approval of the venue.

SkyCity’s Gambling Parents Discharged, One Convicted

Earlier this year, a huge scandal struck SkyCity Auckland, when security stumbled upon a van full of children, abandoned by their parents who had decided to spend the day gambling. The parents were arrested immediately, making headlines across the country – now, they have faced a local judge and decisions have been handed down for both the mother and the father, who have received name suppression.

Both parents were charged with child neglect – specifically, leaving a child under the age of 14 without supervision – but only one was convicted of the crime. The mother and the father were both discharged but only the mother got away without conviction. The father of the children has been found guilty of the crime, and his sentencing will take place later this year.

The judge’s reasons why only one party was convicted has not been revealed; however, some details about the court case have been shared, which shed some light on the situation. According to reports, the mother’s lawyer claimed that she is in the process of becoming a social worker, and a conviction would jeopardize her career plans. It seems unlikely that this argument is the entire reason she escaped conviction-free, but if the mother actually does have plans to become a social worker, she will need to set her priorities straight before pursuing this career path.