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Internal Affairs Department investigating



2007-12-21

Internal Affairs Department investigating

A Pokerstars.net advert screened on New Zealand's TV3 television channel has sparked a row in the country, resulting in an investigation being launched by the Internal Affairs Department, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Among other biewers, the ad was spotted by the nine year old daughter of Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive John Stansfield, who was watching The Simpsons program.

TV3 is standing by its decision to screen the commercial, saying it was "vetted by the Television Commercials Approval Bureau which pre-screens all TV ads before they go to air, in line with the Advertising Standards Authority guidelines".

TV3 marketing director Roger Beaumont said: "This ad was deemed acceptable outside of children's programme time - the same classification awarded to TAB and Lotto commercials."

But Problem Gambling Foundation health promotion adviser Melissa Gregan said she saw the commercial at 5.09pm on November 30, as well as at 7.40pm on November 15 - at both times during The Simpsons.

An Internal Affairs Department spokesman said the department was investigating complaints from several sources about the commercial and would decide by the end of January what action to take.

Stansfield said the commercial encouraged young people to think poker was a game of skill, and that they could become stars if they practised enough. He told the New Zealand Herald, "My daughter spotted it. She's 9. She was watching The Simpsons. There were people with great ball-playing skills, and suddenly it switched to poker playing.

"We have been trying to get the Department of Internal Affairs to do something about it, but TV3 should pull it themselves."

The Gambling Act bans online or "remote interactive gambling" unless it is promoted by the Lotteries Commission, or under the Racing Act, or conducted by someone outside New Zealand or is a sales promotion scheme in the form of a lottery. It also bans "advertising for overseas gambling".

In this case, the advertisement promoted a website, www.pokerstars.net, which offers a free download of software which can be used to play poker live online with other players, but using "play money".

Stansfield said the site was a "mirror site" for www.pokerstars.com, a true gambling website on which players used real money.

Both sites are owned by Rational Entertainment, based on the Isle of Man, and are hosted by Telecity in London.

TV3's Beaumont said the channel's definition of "children's programme time" was between 3pm and 4.30pm on weekdays and 6.30am and 9am on Saturdays.

He said the commercial was still being aired outside those times.


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