The Department of Internal Affairs is about to roll out a new gambling monitoring system from existing supplier Intralot, a company whose founder is the subject of international scrutiny.
The Integrated Gambling Platform (IGP) will complement the electronic monitoring system (EMS) introduced in 2007 to track and monitor gaming machine operations in pubs and clubs. The IGP uses compliance and enforcement intelligence information which the DIA gathers in cooperation with the NZ Police and other enforcement agencies such as Interpol.
The EMS contract was awarded to Greek vendor Intralot in 2005. Intralot has since been contracted to supply the IGP, which will expand DIA's compliance capabilities. IGP is a web-enabled, rules-based e-licensing system that will provide improved reporting and monitoring capability, DIA said when a heads of agreement for IGP was signed in 2010.
DIA says the first phase of the IGP will be implemented in May, and the project will be completed in 2014.
"The contract for EMS, signed in 2005, has been renewed as provided for in the original contract," DIA says in response to Computerworld enquiries. "The heads of agreement for IGP, signed in 2010 like the EMS contract, was agreed after a process that was conducted in accordance with government procurement
Intralot established a fully owned New Zealand subsidiary, Intralot New Zealand, a few months before it won the $35 million DIA contract. The company had a five-year maintenance agreement with DIA, that was due to expire in May 2012.
But in October 2011, the maintenance agreement was renewed until May 2020, an unusually long period, according to IT government sources spoken to by Computerworld.
At the time the original contract was signed, Intralot said it would provide the base for New Zealand to become Intralot's Asia-Pacific hub, creating up to 100 jobs. It planned to subcontract hosting services at EDS' then Upper Hutt facility.
However, the deal fell through. EDS said at the time that it had been unable to reach agreement with Intralot. It didn't say why.
Industry sources have raised a number of issues about the IGP deal and the Greek company behind it.
Computerworld has been told the integrated gambling platform has been provided at zero cost, apparently in exchange for the greatly extended maintenance agreement.
Not so, says DIA. "The Integrated Gambling Platform is being developed at a cost deemed to be appropriate for a project of this kind and has not been provided free of charge. However, the cost is commercially sensitive information which we are unable to release."
Intralot SA, the Greek parent company, has been the subject of many headlines around the world in the past several years, usually in association with its founder and chairman, Socrates Kokkalis. Kokkalis owns 25 percent of Intralot.
Kokkalis is also the founder and executive director of telecommunications and security systems company, Intracom Holdings, the parent company of Intralot.
It has been alleged that Kokkalis was a former Stasi (East German secret police) agent. In 1998, the German Bundestag (national government) devoted 26 pages to Kokkalis, his firms and associates in a 462-page report on Stasi involvement in commercial and other activities.
A 2010 study on the links between organised crime and corruption by the European Commission's Centre for Democratic Studies, devotes a section to him.
The study alleged that when Kokkalis' was a Stasi agent, he accumulated significant information about the general situation in Greece, its politicians, the Greek secret services, terrorism and Greek defence policy.
In 2010, Intralot lost out on a bid to privately manage the Illinois state lottery, partly because it would not have passed a background check, State Revenue Department officials said. A 23-page report says: "In light of the questionable background of certain key executives of Intralot and its parent corporation, numerous criminal indictments brought against them for alleged money laundering, fraud, embezzlement, bribery, misleading investors, and espionage, coupled with Intralot's loss of licences in Bulgaria and South Africa, and its dismal performance record in Australia, Intralot would be hard pressed to establish that it would have passed Illinois' probity standards for serving as private manager."
Despite the allegations and wide-ranging inquiries, Kokkalis has never, as far as we are aware, been convicted.
Computerworld asked if DIA had any concerns about Intralot's parent company and Socrates Kokkalis, given the widespread publicity concerning both?
DIA replied: "The department was aware of allegations surrounding the chairman of Intralot SA, Mr Kokkalis, from the outset and conducted extensive due diligence -- a process independently assessed by Audit New Zealand -- before contracting with Intralot NZ Ltd."
Kokkalis is not a director of Intralot NZ Ltd.
"We have worked successfully with Intralot NZ for more than eight years during which there have been no integrity issues," DIA says.
"We actively monitor all our contractors for a range of reasons.
"Intralot NZ Ltd provides technical services and is not involved in gambling operations in New Zealand. The systems have been developed to ensure the integrity of non-casino pokie gambling and the accurate accounting of money (EMS) and to manage the department's licensing and compliance activities (IGP)."