Richard Moananu was hoping to win a jackpot at the pokies to “provide” for his partner, but instead, he lost money and turned to drinking to calm his nerves.
Later that night, he got into his car, drove recklessly, and crashed into another car, killing an expectant mother and a teenager.
Moananu’s case is just one of many where gambling addiction and poker machines overlap with criminal offending.
The NSW Crime Commission recently concluded that significant but unknown sums of money were being laundered each year in NSW clubs and pubs, sparking a political debate about the future of poker machines.
While the political focus has been on organized crime, public court files show a long-standing overlap between gambling addiction and criminal offending.
Judges, psychologists, and lawyers often debate the “nexus” between addictions and actions.
Sydney solicitor Abbas Soukie says that 80% of his cases, particularly those involving fraud and drug criminals, are under financial pressure due to gambling addiction.
In one instance, a highly successful property agent developed a gambling addiction and ultimately robbed a 7-Eleven convenience store to feed the machines.
Soukie explains that the financial motive is usually underpinned or predicated by gambling or drug addiction, or both.
The article presents several cases where gambling addiction played a significant role in criminal offending.
For example, Charles Smith won $7,000 at the pokies and was attacked by his drinking buddy, Thomas Moloney, who demanded half the winnings.
Moloney left Smith with traumatic head injuries and ongoing memory loss. Hanny Papanicolaou was a regular at Sydney RSL clubs and attacked her elderly client, Marjorie Welsh, for money.
Welsh died six weeks later. Blake Kedwell put his entire wage through the pokies and was under significant financial pressure.
He attempted to import drugs from the dark web to make money but was caught by police. Stephen Luke blew $900 on the pokies and carjacked a woman with a knife.
He went on a five-day crime spree that ended after he caused $1.3 million in damage trying to burn down a church. Tony Glen Hazelwood was a long-term problem gambler who broke into clubs repeatedly, stealing thousands each time to feed his habit.
Judges rarely grant reductions in prison time for people who offend as a result of gambling or drug addictions but accept that these issues can explain crimes.
Soukie notes that the moral and ethical questions of gambling are the ones he and his clients struggle with the most, calling it a “great social evil.”
Advertising gambling is lawful, legal, and encouraged throughout the country, while drugs, equally a social evil, are outlawed.