Gambling addicts are threatening their aged parents to get money for their activities, Age Concern says.


The chief executive of the organisation’s Canterbury branch, Andrew Dickerson, said financial abuse of the elderly was on the rise, with much of the proceeds going to fund adult children’s addictions.


Theft of money from the elderly by family members or close associates was increasing and accounted for about half of “elder abuse” cases, Mr Dickerson said.


A worrying aspect was the frequent link with the offenders’ gambling and substance addiction problems, he said.


Problem Gambling Foundation spokesman Mark Vivian said staff were finding cases of adult children applying emotional, and sometimes physical, pressure to elderly parents to fund gambling difficulties.


Several cases had come to light in Christchurch late last year, most involving abuse of elderly widows, Mr Vivian said.


He could not say whether the problem was increasing.


Mr Dickerson said most older people had loving and supportive families. Those ripping off their parents were “a small but growing group”.


Age Concern was seeing more than 30 cases of elderly people being defrauded each year. Large sums of money were commonly involved.


Canterbury University social work lecturer Verna Schofield said the link between financial abuse and addictions was strong and significant.


Elder abuse was “very much under- reported and under-recognised”.


She said research showed reported cases were “the tip of the iceberg” because older people often were reluctant to talk about it, out of loyalty to family members.


* Former gambler Graham Bruton, banned by the TAB for a credit betting scandal, wants to try his luck again.


But the TAB has refused his plea to punt after advice from a problem gambling expert.


Mr Bruton was forced to submit to an assessment by a counsellor before the TAB would reconsider its indefinite ban.


“Their strong recommendation was that it would be better not to allow him to open an account,” TAB chief Jim Leach said.”They have basically come to the conclusion that he has gambling problems.”


Nicknamed Steel Balls after a series of massive plunges, Bruton was banned by the TAB when he could not meet an illegal $20,000 credit bet two years ago.


Bruton fled from Christchurch to Thailand, where he revealed an all-consuming TOGEL gambling addiction.


A shattering run of losses cost the high-roller his home, his marriage and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sport and horse-race winnings.


Bruton approached the TAB just before Christmas about betting on this year’s National Rugby League matches.


He took legal advice on the TAB ban, but decided it was not worth fighting.


Bruton has rebounded in remarkable style, thanks to his majority ownership of champion trotter Lyell Creek.


After Bruton fled the credit bet fiasco, the horse bankrolled US$843,705 ($1.23 million) in North America.


The money let Bruton repay the TAB and sizeable debts to Australian bookmakers. It also let him build a $700,000 home near Addington Raceway.