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Unregulated online gambling attracting children, harm prevention agency says



Children as young as 11 are racking up thousands of dollars in debt because of online gambling, according to a support service.

The head of Mapu Maia said it had had an increase in school counsellors and social workers reaching out with concerns of problem online gambling among secondary school students and even some children at intermediate.

The organisation works to prevent harm from online gambling and said more research and support was needed, with offshore gambling websites posing a particular risk.

Mapu Maia chief executive Pesio Ah-Honi said she was approached by distressed parents, whose child was up all night gambling online.

“Parents of a child who was in intermediate, so that would be around 11 to 12 years old, were beside themselves because he would sleep at school. He wasn’t engaging in the family and he was completely disconnected,” she said.

The boy had been using his mother’s credit card to fuel his online gambling habits.

“We found out that he had clocked up on his mother’s credit card over $16,000 because he was spending it on online gambling and he was up all night gambling,” she said.

Ah-Honi said thousands of young people and their parents used Mapu Maia services but believed this was only the tip of the iceberg, because many people were too embarrassed to speak about the issue.

The service is designed to work with teens aged between 13 and 17 and has team of clinicians and health promoters, who run several youth-based gambling harm programmes across New Zealand.

Ah-Honi said sports betting sites were deliberately targeting young people.

“There are lots of adverts and marketing out there around online and betting on games, I believe the marketing to young people is really rife,” she said.

She told Checkpoint social media was being used more frequently to draw in young people.

“The industry uses those platforms to specifically target young people. They’re not using social media to target the older generation. We believe it’s specifically targeted to young people when they use social media,” she said.

She said she understood regulating online gambling sites would be a challenge for government due to many gambling websites being offshore, but said more education and support was needed.

Ah-Honi said problem gambling must also be brought into the conversation around youth mental health.

“It’s moved slightly from your pokie machine pubs in the community to online places where it’s not regulated. You can gamble away in the privacy of your own home, you can gamble underage,” she said.

The Ministry of Health’s Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm 2022/23 to 2024/25 says research into secondary school students gambling found that one in three had participated in gambling at some point in their lives.

The link between online gaming features and gambling also poses risks for youth problem gambling.

Aaron Drummond, a professor based in Tasmania and previous professor at the University of Waikato, said research conducted in New Zealand, Australia and the United States indicated people who showed signs of problem gambling were more likely to spend more money on online gaming features.

One of those problematic features is called a ‘loot box‘.

“What we know about them, it’s quite concerning. People who have symptoms of problem gambling also tend to spend more on loot boxes, and recent evidence suggests people who engage with these loot boxes are at greater risk of migrating into conventional gambling behaviours later down the road,” he said.

In Australia, online games that feature loot boxes must be rated M.

Drummond said on average people spend $10-12 a month on loot boxes, but some people have spent up to $1000 per month.

He said there had been an increase of the amount of loot boxes appearing in games.

“What we found that was interesting was income didn’t affect how much people were spending on loot boxes. It was actually consistently the case that in every income bracket higher spenders were always people with the highest problem gambling symptoms, so loot boxes tend to disproportionately be attractive to people who have problems controlling their gambling behaviours,” he said.

The Problem Gambling Foundation said they had noticed a rise in young clients under 25 seeking support for online gambling harm.

The current Gambling Act 2003 was outdated and did not include any mention of today’s online gambling scene, they said.

In a statement to Checkpoint, the Department of Internal Affairs said “in March this year, Cabinet made an in-principle decision to regulate online casino gambling”.

“The department is supporting the minister of internal affairs to prepare a report back to Cabinet on the high-level design of the regulatory system.”

It said it is “mindful of the need to ensure operators have effective age verification systems, and tools to minimise harmful gambling will be a key component in the new regulations


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26-year-old charged after man found dead in car outside vape store



Police in Auckland have arrested a man in relation to the homicide investigation launched in Mount Wellington at the weekend.

Officers were called to Penrose Road in Mount Wellington about 10.40pm on Saturday after reports of a gun being fired outside a business.

On arrival they found a man dead in a car.

Police have named the man as 22-year-old Texas Jack Doctor.

They say a 26-year-old man has been arrested, charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

He is expected to appear in Auckland District Court Wednesday.


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‘I want her to die’: Man’s vicious attack on wife in McDonald’s revealed in court documents



Warning: The content of this story may be distressing to some readers

A man’s vicious attack and attempted murder of his wife in an Auckland McDonald’s during their separation earlier this year has been described in court documents.

Mitesh Kumar appeared in the High Court at Auckland on Wednesday morning, pleading guilty to attempted murder and two counts of failing to carry out obligations under search powers.

The 45-year-old Auckland man stabbed and slashed his partner multiple times with a utility knife at a McDonald’s restaurant in Mt Roskill in January.

Court documents reveal Kumar entered the McDonald’s alone, after concealing the knife in his pants pocket.

He had arranged to meet his wife, whom he had been married to for about 18 years before they separated, with the promise that he would bring her two children with him.

Kumar had not seen her or his children in four months prior to the attack.

His wife arrived outside the restaurant and called him when she saw the children were not present.

Police at the scene of an assault at McDonald's on Stoddard Road in Auckland's Mount Roskill on 11 January 2024.

Police at the scene. Photo: RNZ / Lucy Xia

He convinced the woman to come into the restaurant, saying her children were across the road.

Kumar’s wife entered the McDonald’s sitting opposite him at the table, when he began asking the woman to accept a lower divorce settlement offer, something she did not want to talk about.

At this point, Kumar revealed a nude photograph of his wife he kept on his phone, saying he would show others the photo if she did not accept the lower offer.

As his wife attempted to leave, Kumar stood and lunged forward with the knife.

He slashed the woman across the left side of her neck and throat three times, pushing her over a table, and breaking it in the process.

Kumar stood over his wife, grabbing her by the hair as she struggled to her feet, slashing her in the same place a further three times.

Bystanders and McDonald’s staff pled with him to stop.

“Don’t stop me, just stay away,” replied Kumar, threatening the onlookers with his knife.

He continued to attack his wife, holding her down while he slashed at her neck and body.

Kumar spoke to his wife in Gujarati, telling her she had wrecked his life and lost his children.

There was a pause, and Kumar’s wife tried to sit up before he continued stabbing and slashing at her neck, throat, upper body and the back of her head, while she held up her arms in an effort to protect herself.

Kumar stopped to adjust his knife, before continuing his attack.

Court documents said he suffered a mechanical failure and paused to fix it.

His wife was unable to push him away, as Kumar overpowered her, slashing yet again at her neck.

He paused and took out a new blade from the handle of his utility knife, replacing the one he was using to attack his wife.

Kumar slashed at the woman’s neck and throat four more times, pausing to take deep breaths, before attacking once more.

Others in the restaurant tried to talk to Kumar, as he screamed at them that his wife has ruined his life.

“I want her to die, you can call the police,” he told them.

He attacked several more times, targeting his wife’s neck thrice more, before a member of the public intervened with a chair.

The attack lasted seven minutes and 44 seconds.

Kumar only stopped after police arrived.

His wife suffered multiple penetrating wounds to her neck, throat, left ear, the back of her head, and her upper chest area, as well as multiple lacerations and defensive wounds to her hands and arms.

Court documents reveal that her injuries were so severe, she needed to be admitted to theatre so they could be repaired.

Meanwhile, Kumar was taken to Auckland City Police Station.

He told authorities his wife was asking for too much money in the divorce settlement.

“If she dies, and I go to jail, everything goes to the kids.

“That is the motive.”

Kumar has been remanded in custody until sentencing in November.


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Water outage in several streets of Wellington suburb of Karori



Up to 500 properties in the Wellington suburb of Karori are without water.

Wellington Water said its crews were responding to a burst water main on Monaghan Avenue.

The area affected includes:

  • Collier Avenue
  • Woodhouse Avenue
  • Parklands Drive
  • Lynmouth Avenue
  • Landsdowne Terrace
  • Parsons Glen

Wellington Water said to carry out repairs its crews also had to turn the water off to Monaghan Avenue from Karori Road to Paparata Street, including all of Hawick Street, Selkirk Way, Laidlaw Way, Ridd Crescent.

Two water tankers have been arranged to provide drinking water to those affected which Wellington Water said would remain in place until the water was restored.

There is a tanker at 1 Parata Street and another one on the intersection of Collier Avenue and Richmond Avenue.

Residents could notice that their water appeared cloudy or had air pockets once it was turned back on, Wellington Water said.

But it said its crews would flush the hydrants in the zone once the repair had been completed.

Wellington Water said it expected water to be restored to the area at about 5pm on Wednesday.

A map showing the area of the water outage in Karori.

A map showing the area of the water outage in Karori. Photo: Supplied


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