'Mystery shoppers' find huge failures in fight against problem gambling

The Department of Internal Affairs will be keeping a closer eye on gambling venues after a massive failure by pubs, hotels and casinos to identify problem gamblers.

It spent three months collecting information from undercover gamblers at more than 100 venues across New Zealand, with only one stopping the operator acting as someone unable to control their betting.

Venues are supposed to be able to identify those with gambling problems, but the investigation showed this was not occurring.

"To be honest we were somewhat surprised at the extent of the issue that we have now uncovered," Maarten Quivooy from Internal Affairs told ONE News.

"To then come back and find that actually all of those situations our mystery shoppers were not approached, were not offered assistance. I think is really concerning.

"We'll now be working with them and watching really closely to make sure they step up to the plate."

Some of the mystery gamblers sat at pokie machines for hours without intervention, and took out cash on multiple occasions while saying scripted lines that hinted at the problems they were facing.

"There is no excuses for it," says Simon Whyte of the Lion Foundation, which has almost 2000 pokie machines.

In a statement the country's largest casino, SkyCity, says staff had "actively engaged with the 'mystery shoppers' on a number of occasions, and that they were clearly providing a safe environment for customers."

Actors displayed all the signs of having a problem at more than 100 venues. Source: 1 NEWS


Burning death sentence 'totally inadequate' - family

The former wife of a man burnt to death by vigilantes says the sentences handed down over the killing are "totally inadequate".

Shay Barry Webster, 22, and Jason Alistor Barr, 44, falsely accused Terrence Smith of being a paedophile, doused him in petrol and accidentally set him alight on Anzac Day last year.

Mr Smith died two weeks later at Middlemore Hospital.

Webster and Barr were initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter last month.

Barr was sentenced to five years and seven months with a minimum non parole period of two-and-a-half years. Webster was sentenced to five years and three months with a minimum term of imprisonment of two years and three months.

Mr Smith's former wife, Michelle Smith, says the sentences are too light.

"A loved family member has been taken away and the value of their life has been minimised by what we believe to be a totally inadequate sentence."

Facts of the case revealed

For the first time, the statement of facts from the case was read to the court this morning.

It details how Barr got a petrol can and tipped it over the victim.

Both he and Webster had been confronting Mr Smith, calling him a "dirty paedophile" and saying, "you're lucky we don't set you on fire".

A witness told police Webster had a lighter. He flicked it twice while standing 30 centimetres away from the victim and the fumes around the victim caught fire.

The witness told police that Barr looked shocked and Webster tried to pat the fire out. They got a fire extinguisher and tried to put out the flames, and then put Terry Smith in the shower.

However, Mr Smith could not survive the burns he received to 29% of his body.

Marilyn McCormack, the victim's sister, told the offenders in court that "it just made me sick what you did to Terry".

She said through tears: "He lost his life tragically and horrifically, you can come back from jail but he can't come back from death."

Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh told the court "it's hard to imagine a more terrifying or painful way to die, especially given that Mr Smith remained conscious, he made his own 111 call."

The victim was torched because he was wrongly accused of being paedophile. Source: 1 NEWS



Prisoners provide duckling bootcamp

Prison inmates have helped to build a special facility in Turangi for native birds. Source: 1 NEWS