A banned poker machine addict slipped through all SkyCity's
safety systems to play his way to VIP status in the casino's
The man, 62, and his wife, 58, have told the New Zealand
Herald how the casino treated them like royalty for 18
months while he blew $300,000 on gambling after going
unchallenged through identity checks up to five times a week.
The woman said her husband started going to the casino in
1996. She said he "walked in there and another man walked
out, and he hasn't been the same since".
The gambler's ease of access to the VIP room came after years
of playing on the main casino floor - even though he had been
banned from SkyCity twice and was subject to a legal
Privacy waivers from the couple have allowed SkyCity to
confirm the gambler got past security systems set up to catch
The casino said the man was identified on April 27 last year
after it introduced a new screening system which checked
sign-in details against problem gamblers.
The Herald has confirmed SkyCity had collected the sign-in
information for years but never cross-checked it.
Problem gambling experts say the case raises serious
questions about the casino's commitment to minimising harm
from gambling at a time when it is negotiating with the
Government to expand its gambling options - including adding
more poker machines - in return for building a $350 million
The banned gambler's case was one of a large increase in the
number of problem gamblers identified by the casino at a time
when it was trying to impress with the quality of its
The man, who did not want to be named, said he had banned
himself twice and had once been trespassed from the casino.
He believed his legal exclusion had expired in 2008 when he
and his wife returned to play regularly, eventually
graduating to the VIP room.
"If you get to VIP you lost a lot of money to get there," he
said. "You get there because of the money you've pumped into
The couple said they knew staff by their first names and were
entertained with free drinks, meals, hotel rooms, gifts and
tickets to corporate boxes at sporting events.
The man said that when they went to the VIP area, they passed
a desk at which his wife was required to show her "action
card" for entry.
SkyCity says it recorded his name and driver licence details
as part of its guest sign-in procedures, although the couple
say these were often waived as they were visiting as often as
five times a week.
"I never wore a disguise," the man said. "I never hid who I
was. Quite often I would wear my Caribbean shirt - and I
stood out. I didn't try to blend in. I was just being me."
On April 27 last year, the man was told his details had been
checked and he had been identified as a banned gambler.
"I know a lot of it is my own fault - nobody put a gun to my
head. It has cost me a small fortune.
"I pretty much feel I was ignored. As long as you were giving
them money they weren't worried.
"I believe it shows they didn't have and didn't want an
effective system prior to the conference centre deal with the
SkyCity's company lawyer, Peter Treacy, said the casino took
host responsibility very seriously, and safe entertainment
was "top priority".
It also relied on families to keep banned problem gamblers
The casino was now banning the man's wife, as it believed she
knowingly breached casino rules.
Mr Treacy said some problem gamblers went to great lengths to
evade staff but did not say whether the comment related to
He said the casino introduced a new system in April last year
in VIP areas which checked guests' names against SkyCity's
database of banned gamblers.
Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey
said similar stories had been heard from other problem
He said it was not enough to rely on SkyCity to regulate
"This is particularly worrying at a time when the expansion
of the Auckland casino is being considered as part of the
convention centre deal."
- David Fisher of the NZ Herald