An audit conducted by the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has determined Auckland’s SkyCity Casino repeatedly failed to tackle gambling-related harm on its premises, as reported by local media Newshub. The DIA probe was finalised last year and established the operator performed poorly in nine out of ten compliance areas despite receiving warnings to address similar issues during previous audits.
Staff members on the casino floor failed to spot self-excluded patrons or adequately approach problem gambling issues. According to the regulator, there is a good chance minors were also accessing the premises. The casino’s main gaming floor is crowded with slot machines whose loud noises and flashing lights are known to feed gambling addiction.
The operator failed to reduce this harm according to the findings of the DIA. The regulatory body also reported other similar failings, including insufficient risk assessment and dismissive behaviour toward gambling harm on behalf of the employees.
Certain groups like the Maori and Pasifika communities are more prone to suffer from gambling-related harm, but the floor personnel overlooked the patrons’ ethnicity as a risk factor. Harm and risk evaluation procedures on the premises proved insufficient. Additionally, over half of the patrons who voluntarily joined programmes to restrict their spending and sessions’ duration ended up breaching their restrictions.
Excluded Person Played Slots for 28 Hours before Staff Members Noticed
SkyCity’s procedures for spotting excluded customers and preventing them from gambling were also inadequate according to the regulator. On one particular occasion, a self-excluded person spent 28 hours playing the slot machines before someone took heed of the fact she was not supposed to be on the floor in the first place. In a separate instance, the person in question played the machines for over 14 hours before someone took notice of her.
The local news service Newshub received the probe results under the Official Information Act, although Jan Tinetti, New Zealand’s Minister of Internal Affairs, had no knowledge of the audit. Minister Tinetti recently unveiled plans for a review of slot machines at pubs and warned gambling venues could be next in the wake of the DIA findings.
The DIA reached the conclusion the above-mentioned failings occurred systematically in SkyCity Casino Auckland but no enforcement actions were taken against the operator. SkyCity itself argued the audit took place in 2019 and the casino has adopted various measures since then, including the use of facial recognition to spot self-excluded customers. The number of staff members has also increased and the employees undergo better training. A special algorithm for data analysis is in place to pick out patrons at higher risk from gambling-related harm.
Andree Froude, Director of Marketing and Communications of the Problem Gambling Foundation, was appalled by the findings and called the failings “clear breaches of host responsibility”. Froude drew a parallel with alcohol consumption, saying there would be repercussions if a drinking establishment was caught serving alcohol to underage customers.
Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.