A pokie trust established to fund the racing industry has
been shut down following revelations a racing identity
covertly manipulated grants.
Yesterday's decision by the Gambling Commission confirmed a
2012 decision by Internal Affairs to cancel the licence of
Bluegrass, a Blenheim-based pokie trust.
In a 33-page decision, the commission said the trust provided
false and misleading information to Internal Affairs about
its funding and those involved, including the role of harness
racing identity Mike O'Brien.
The decision noted ''documentary evidence indicating that
Mike O'Brien covertly exercised influence over the society's
grants and operation''.
Mr O'Brien, speaking from Bangkok where he is honeymooning,
told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he was not aware
of the decision and had no comment to make.
The ODT last year reported Bluegrass was caught up in
a major joint agency investigation, involving Internal
Affairs, police and the Serious Fraud Office, with search
warrants executed and computers seized.
Industry sources confirmed the investigation dubbed Operation
Chestnut, which identified key people involved in the
manipulation of gaming machine grants, overlapped with
Internal Affairs acting director of gambling compliance Raj
Krishnan said ''Bluegrass' deliberate and repeated efforts to
deceive the Secretary [of Internal Affairs] was
''There is not room for such behaviour in the gaming sector
and we are pleased that those involved will now need to move
The commission also noted Bluegrass was open to being
influenced by venue operators - namely the pubs where its
pokie machines were based.
The Bluegrass website was offline yesterday.
Internal Affairs said the trust's 144 machines in eight pubs
around the country had to be turned off on August 18 when the
licence was cancelled.
Those machines are likely to be sold to another gaming trust.
In 2012, the ODT reported Bluegrass Trust was the
biggest pokie funder of the southern racing industry, despite
having no venues in Otago and Southland.