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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Casinos, Pokies, Governments: complicit in crime?

Are casinos, and poker machine (slot machine) venues - together with governments - complicit in crime? Are they accessories after the fact in crime?

You see, dear Reader, when a gambler steals money - from an employer, a family member or friend or some other source - and that gambler is convicted for stealing the money the casino, poker machine venue, or the government (who receives a cut of the takings), does not have to re-imburse the owner of the money. The casino or pokie venue keeps the proceeds of the crime.

Now, to Miss Eagle, this seems a bit odd. If Miss Eagle innocently purchased a stolen vehicle, when the stolen item is tracked down it would be taken from Miss E and returned to its rightful owner - and Miss E would suffer the financial burden with her only recourse to take civil action to reclaim her costs. If the local pawn shop unwittingly receives stolen goods, they are taken from the pawn shop and the police endeavour to return the goods to their rightful owner.

So why are the financial proceeds of crime treated differently?

And there is one important difference here. The purchaser of a stolen vehicle or the unwitting pawn shop owner has a brief, once only dealing - and that is not necessarily with the perpetrator of the crime - for the transmission of the stolen property.

Casino and pokie venues have a sustained relationship - at least over many long hours if not days, weeks, months, and years - with the perpetrator of the crime of stealing money. But how often do gambling venues query the long distance gambler? They are just happy to take the money.

In Australia and New Zealand, pressure is mounting for casinos and other gambling venues to use the electronic data collected about its patrons - usually through customer service marketing programs and surveys - to help identify problem gamblers.

In recent trials here are what two judges had to say:

In December, Sally Grossi was sentenced to a minimum 3-1/2 years prison for stealing nearly $2-million from her employer. She spent the stolen money on the pokies at Crown Casino. When sentencing Grossi, the judge lashed out at Crown.
Here's an extract of what he had to say.
Reader: In my view, cases of this sort, which are increasing in number, call for a consideration of legislation which would put the onus on Crown Casino and other gambling venues, to make reasonable inquiries to ensure that large sums of money continually being lost by regular customers, as in this instance, are emanating from a legitimate source. And in default of such inquiries, a civil liability should be imposed upon these venues to reimburse the victims of crimes of this nature.

Damien Carrick: And he's not the only judge, when sentencing a pilfering compulsive gambler, to point an angry finger at a casino.
Here's an extract of what a judge had to say as he sentenced Erick Tjandra to a minimum three years prison. Reader: Quite frankly, I regard it as the height of irresponsibility for the casino to have placed such a vulnerable person in the situation of gambling in what is called the Kerry Packer Room against the House. He was not Kerry Packer, he was not an Asian Prince, he was a humble bank clerk who unfortunately developed a gambling addiction beyond his means.

So, dear Reader, make up your own mind. Are casinos, poker machine venues, and governments complicit criminals when they retain the proceeds of crime? To help you make up your mind, you might like to listen to a recent Background Briefing program or you can read the full transcript here.