Thieves can play with stolen money at SkyCity but staff there mustn’t brandish The Bible

It will be hard to support any legislation that gives a helping hand to the SkyCity mob in Auckland.

Frankly, Alf had been somewhat indifferent to criticisms from lefties and greenies about a deal whereby the casino would build a conference centre in Auckland and the Government would pass a law to enable them to install more of their pokies. Or something like that.

But he is looking askance at two bits of news today which tell him heaps about the company’s sense of decency.

Or serious lack of it.

SkyCity entertains customers with stolen money in their pockets according to one news item (here).

As if that wasn’t outrage enough to The Almighty, who takes a dim view of stealing, the news item here says SkyCity is hauling a staffer to a disciplinary hearing for carrying a Bible.

The thief who became a customer – a welcome one, no doubt, although the casino bosses weren’t necessarily to know the source of her dosh – is a mother of two.

She stole more than $330,000 from her employer to feed into SkyCity casino’s pokie machines.

Jocelyn Iwa Ngareta Renata, 50, was sentenced to two years and three months’ jail after stealing a total of $331,626 from Hoani Waititi Marae, for which she acted as financial officer.

But she is not the first criminal to spend her ill-gotten gains at the casino.

The fraud is the latest criminal case where a person had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars after becoming addicted to gambling at the casino.

The light-fingered Renata is reported to have worked for the Glen Eden marae in various roles for 17 years.

She stole the money from her employer – a charitable trust responsible for the marae’s administration – after becoming addicted to gambling.

“You stated that the offending gave you an exciting lifestyle, a positive buzz, and made you feel good,” Judge Allison Sinclair said in sentencing at the Auckland District Court in April.

“You advised the report writer that … all the money went into the machines and you got nothing.”

More than $600,000 passed through Renata’s gambling account at SkyCity.

She was a nice little source of turnover for the casino, in other words.

“The trust has developed many initiatives to assist Maori in the areas of education, training, justice and health, and your fraud severely jeopardised its activities,” Judge Sinclair said.

“Your offending has caused the trust extreme embarrassment and put its reputation as a trusted recipient of public funds at risk.”

The Herald says it has obtained documents that show the Department of Internal Affairs has raised concerns over similar cases at the casino.

Department officials wrote in a report that SkyCity patrons effectively had “unlimited access” to cash from numerous ATMs throughout the casino and its Bank of New Zealand branch.

“This unlimited access to cash is thought to exacerbate problem gambling,” said the Internal Affairs memo, dated last July.

The Problem Gambling Foundation reckons the ready availability of cash at a casino enables gamblers to chase losses and is a key determinant in managing problem gambling.

SkyCity’s profiting from thieves isn’t likely to go down too well with The Lord, when the buggers turn up at The Pearly Gates.

They might pass muster on the grounds they were not to know where the money came from.

But they have to explain, too, why they banned The Bible from their premises.

At least, they are preparing to discipline a staffer whose offence was to carry a pocket Bible.

Staff member Tuni Parata has been told to attend a disciplinary hearing after being found with the book in the toilets.

Ms Parata’s union, Unite, has provided company documents that describe how her Bible was found on a bathroom vanity in the Sky Tower while she was in a cubicle.

The manager who made the discovery reported it to other staff.

Ms Parata now faces a disciplinary hearing for possessing non-work-related material during work hours.

Non-work-related material?

What is that exactly?

A wedding ring, for example?

The union says the company’s action is absurd, according to the Radio NZ report

…and Wellington employment lawyer Peter Cullen says it may be unreasonable under the law.

But the company says staff in customer service roles are generally not allowed to carry items such as mobile phones and books.

Ms Parata has worked at SkyCity since it opened in 1996.

We may wonder what would have happened if she had been carrying The Koran.

News of her disciplining would have quickly reached Muslims and they may well have bombed the casino by now.

Ms Parata – to show how we Christians do things – should be turning the other cheek.

Whistling in the union suggests she has other plans.


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