National Party frontbencher Gerry Brownlee is a director of a company in New Zealand’s troubled casino industry.
Brownlee says he became a director of a new consultancy firm, New Zealand Casino Services Ltd, registered on June 1, to clean up an industry beset by scandal.
The firm, which was established to provide advice on gaming procedures and legislation, is headed by Stephen Lyttelton and Peter Arbuckle, both former top executives at the Christchurch Casino who have resigned in the past month.
Both went public on their concerns about the industry in an article in The Press on Tuesday, alleging financial irregularities and low standards of behaviour from the casino’s owners.
Brownlee said yesterday he had become a director of the company because „I have a strong view that if the licences are to change, then there has to be a pretty firm hand on how they are managed in the future“.
He said he wanted to pitch in with an active role in the industry because the law regulating casinos had been ineffective.
„Sometimes the law on its own is not enough to achieve things. Sometimes you do have to be a bit active about wanting to get some changes,“ he said.
„The law itself hasn’t worked. I ask myself what will make these people enforce the law. Simple as that.
„You rip your hair out at times over whether laws are adequate or enforcement is adequate. At the end of the day, if you want to change something, get in there and do it.“
Gambling was a big problem in the community, he said.
„I don’t think casinos are going to go away but they certainly need to be operating in a way that is less detrimental to our wider community,“ he said.
„My interests are in ensuring that the community does not end up in a worse state as a result of any change that may come out of arrangements that are there at the moment.“
He said he had known Lyttelton for many years and wanted to support his new venture. Lyttelton’s wife, Anne, was Brownlee’s electorate secretary until a month ago.
Being involved with the casino industry was no worse or different from someone from National or Labour being a board member of a racing club, Brownlee said.
„Why wouldn’t I ensure that a potential operator does have high standards?“ he said.
„I think the current arrangements don’t appear to have kept some of the less savoury aspects of the casino industry away from the city.“
National deputy leader Bill English said he would not comment on the matter without first discussing it with Brownlee. He could not contact Brownlee last night.