Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chairman Philip Crawford has recently asked for a complex investigation into the suspicion of money laundering activities unfolding inside non-gaming venues in New South Wales. The alleged money laundering activities would occur through slot machines.
Colloquially called the “poker machine capital of Australia”, NSW is currently home to 95,000 pokie machines. Most of them are found in hotels, clubs, pubs, and other similar non-gaming venues. They bring the state close to $710 million in taxes while offering steady jobs for more than 100,000 employees.
Now, these venues that host the popular poker machines are targeted by the top gambling regulator’s initiative under the suspicion of being used by criminal gangs for the purpose of laundering money.
Non-Gaming Venues Must Be Held Accountable, Says Crawford
In November, Crawford sent a letter to State Premier Dominic Perrottet Perrottet in which he expressed his belief that gaming activities in clubs and pubs within the state should be subject to the same kind of public inquiry that Crown Resorts’ activity had been subject to in 2020.
ILGA’s chairman also expressed his discontent towards the current law that allows him to hold casinos accountable for their illegal actions, while preventing him from doing the same with non-gaming venues. Furthermore, he argued that the NSW government should be given more powers and initiate the supervision of the non-gaming sector.
The legislative gap Crawford spoke about separates the way the state regulates gaming at large casinos with a few thousand slot machines versus non-gaming venues that operate 95,000 pokie machines across the state. The same legislative gap is suspected to be used by criminal organizations for their money laundering activities with the help of these machines.
$712 Million Allegedly Washed Through Pokie Machines Down Under
According to David Byrne, the state’s chief gaming investigator, at least $710 is being laundered through pokie machines in the country on a yearly basis. To make his point, Byrne shared images from a surveillance camera belonging to a pub in Sydney. The images portrayed a criminal gang member putting $19,000 into a poker machine, placing a bet of just $1, and cashing out his alleged “winnings”. The respective group member caught on camera allegedly belongs to a major organized crime group that specializes in money laundering activities via pokie machines on the east coast.
Byrne is a strong advocate of cashless wagering, a solution that would prevent people from walking in with a large amount of money and putting it all into a single pokie machine. Players would be forced to officially register to obtain a gambling card issued by the NSW government while having to pre-load their cards with money. The same cards would also be overseen by the Privacy Commissioner and linked to the NWS’ exclusion register in order to more effectively block out thousands of self-excluded players.