Money Laundering on the Rise at NSW pokies

laundered money coming out of an evidence file

The latest figures from Liquor and Gaming NSW show profits at poker machines increased more than 10 per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the lockdown restrictions on pubs and clubs.

Money laundering during the five months of COVID-19 restrictions drove a $305 million increase in poker machine profits, a spike that experts say shows the need for a gambling card.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that between June and October, profits increased from $2.8 billion last year to $3.1 billion and in July, profits were up 23.3 per cent, up from $581 million in July 2019 to $716 million.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, who has responsibility for the sector, wants to introduce a gambling card to help problem gamblers but also to stamp out money laundering.

Poker machines would become cashless and gamblers required to register and pre-load money to the card, which would operate in a similar way to Opal cards for public transport.

Chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority Philip Crawford said money laundering through machines was highlighted in the Bergin inquiry into Crown’s operations in Melbourne.

The gambling regulator blocked Crown Resorts from opening its $2.2 billion Sydney casino next month after a stunning 11th-hour admission to the inquiry that criminals probably laundered dirty cash through the group’s bank accounts.

Mr Crawford said money laundering has links to “drugs, child sexual exploitation, people trafficking and financing terrorism” and criminals were increasingly washing cash in poker machines.

Poker machines get targeted by criminal elements because they are a simple and cost-effective way of money laundering by washing cash through a machine,” he said.

“Any reasonable steps that can be taken to reduce money laundering in New South Wales, including the use of technology, should be seriously considered by the government and by industry.”

Calls grow for cashless gambling card in NSW

man holding a credit card while betting online on a smart phone

Mr Crawford said a gambling card would complement the “swipe economy” in which use of cash has been significantly reduced during the pandemic.

“It would greatly assist in the development of strategies to assist problem gamblers and it would significantly reduce the opportunities for money laundering through poker machines,” he said.

“However, technology cannot be used to inappropriately interfere with what is a legal activity, that is, playing poker machines, which for many players does not lead to problem gambling.”

Poker machines are dispersed across 4000 venues in New South Wales and only 1500 of the total 96,000 machines in the state are in the Star Casino.

Chief advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform Tim Costello has written to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, urging her cabinet to support a gambling card.

“Every day in NSW pubs and clubs, criminals launder money through poker machines. This is deeply disturbing for many reasons,” Mr Costello’s letter said.

“There is a way to reduce money laundering, which will in turn likely reduce criminality and increase the budget bottom line in NSW.

“The answer is the universal cashless gambling card proposed by Minister Victor Dominello.

“This card has tremendous benefits, both for removing a notorious method of laundering money in NSW and in reducing gambling harm. We urge the cabinet to back it.”

Mr Costello said a gaming card would deliver “an immediate end to money laundering via poker machines in pubs and clubs and a back-up to current proposed self-exclusion identification checks by venues, as a self-excluded gambler’s card would be blocked.”

He said it would also provide a “tool which allows everyone to manage their own gambling spending and facilitate alternative pathways for those who need to reduce or stop their gambling.”

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