Auckland’s SkyCity casino has caught two loan sharks and barred them from the gaming floor.
SkyCity yesterday admitted the presence of the loan sharks after allegations from gamblers and a former staff member that money-lenders had roamed freely at the casino for at least five years.
The casino has taken trespass orders against the two loan sharks and told the Department of Internal Affairs.
A former staff member who worked in the VIP room until recently told the Weekend Herald he had often seen loans of up to NZD 50,000 made to gamblers as they ran out of money.
The staff member, who asked not to be identified, worked at the casino for several years and said senior management knew of the loan sharks.
„VIP managers are and were fully aware of the activity, but I never saw anyone question them over it.“
One high-stakes gambler said SkyCity’s claim of zero tolerance of loan sharks was „baloney“.
The gambler, who also asked not to be identified, claimed to have borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from loan sharks while gambling.
He said the current rate of interest was 7 per cent a week.
The loan sharks and the borrowers were almost exclusively Asian. Lenders operated openly in the casino, mainly in the VIP room.
The gambler said loans were given anywhere in the casino, often in front of staff or cameras.
He did not believe SkyCity wanted to rid the casino of loan sharks, or that Internal Affairs or the police saw loan sharks as a priority to investigate.
SkyCity’s regulatory and general manager, Peter Treacy, said it was difficult to comment on unsubstantiated allegations and encouraged anyone with concerns about loan sharks to „act responsibly“ and advise the casino.
Green MP Sue Bradford this week called for a public inquiry into the links between casinos and „organised crime“ such as loan sharks.
The Government has ordered an inquiry into claims that loan sharks are operating at Christchurch Casino.
A spokesman for the Department of Internal Affairs said making loans in itself was not illegal and not specifically covered under the Gambling Act or by gambling inspectors.
But borrowing money to gamble could indicate problem gambling, requiring the casino to take action under its „harm minimisation and prevention policies“.
The spokesman said the casino was also required to notify Internal Affairs of patrons of „undesirable activity that could compromise the honesty or integrity of gambling in the casino“.
These included assaults, drug dealing and loan sharking.
The spokesman said SkyCity and all gambling establishments were required to identify and assist problem gamblers and the department would investigate any breach of this on a case-by-case basis.