Pokies outlawed as operator loses licence

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 16:37 05/08/2014

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The Gambling Commission has confirmed the closure of Blenheim gaming machines trust Bluegrass Holdings, saying it obtained its licence to operate pokie machines by deception.

Bluegrass provided false and misleading information to Internal Affairs about its funding, those involved in the society and the role of Blenheim man Mike O'Brien in particular, the commission said in its decision​.

Mike O'Brien is well-known in the harness racing community and is the son of Patrick O'Brien, former chairman of Harness Racing New Zealand and former chairman​ of Bluegrass, which primarily provided grant money to the racing sector.

Bluegrass Holdings Ltd was incorporated in June 2009 and traded as Bluegrass Trust, operating 140 gaming machines in eight venues across Auckland, Lower Hutt, Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch.

Its licence to operate those machines will be cancelled from August 18.

The decision, published today, comes after a two​-year process between Bluegrass Holdings and the Department of Internal Affairs​. 

Department acting ​d​irector of ​g​ambling ​compliance Raj Krishnan said​ action ​started ​i​​n July 2012 ​to cancel Bluegrass' licence due to concerns about the suitability of ​the trust's operations​,​ including the actions of particular individuals.

''Bluegrass' deliberate and repeated efforts to deceive Internal Affairs were intolerable,​''​ ​Krishnan said in a statement today.

''​There is no room for such behaviour in the gambling sector and we are pleased that those involved will now need to move on.

''We put a lot of effort into this case as we believe ensuring the integrity of the gambling sector is of great importance. Gaming machine societies exist to distribute funds for the community. Millions of dollars are involved and the utmost integrity is required​.''

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- The Marlborough Express

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