NSW Fears Money Laundering Surge In State’s Pokies
Australia could become a safe haven for money laundering according to the New South Wales Crime Commission. The NSW Crime Commission fears international criminals will head to Australia and use pokies for money laundering.
The warning came after figures for November and December from Liquor and Gaming NSW made impressive reading. Gaming machine profits weighed in at $629.6 million over the two months, an increase of 6.5% on 2019.
Those figures were even more impressive when you look at the final six months of the year. Profits from pokies topped the scales at $4.4 billion between July and December, up from $4 billion in the same period in 2019.
Business is booming despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Australia has done an incredible job and keeping the virus under control. Total COVID-19 cases come in at 28,708 with 909 deaths recorded. Compare this to our United Kingdom cousins who have seen 3,359,959 cases and 89,261 deaths.
NSW is the home to the most pokies in Australia. The state has almost 96,000 pokies across 4,000 venues. There are 1,500 in the Star casino in Sydney alone.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is the illegal process of concealing illegally obtained money. The term money laundering comes from the fact the money is “washed clean” before being used in society.
Large scale money laundering is complex with criminals using fake and legitimate business to clean huge sums of money. It is a big business. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates between US$800 billion and US$2 trillion is laundered annually.
Smaller illegal operations handle a lot of cash. Drug deals and protection rackets, for example, come with cash payments. Depositing large sums of cash at a bank draws unwanted attention to the criminals. By using the illegally-gained money to play pokies, there is a legitimate trail on the money.
Criminals load up a machine with money, gamble for a period of time, cash out, and deposit the clean money. They say they won the money gambling if their bank asks where the money came from.
NSW poker machines are more attractive to criminals because of their high load-up limit. It is significantly larger than those in other states.
Commission Warns Criminals Will Target Australia
“It is possible that Australia will be perceived as a safe haven for the legal and illegal transfer of international funds following the way it handled its COVID-19 response,” the commission said.
“A similar observation was made following the global financial crisis several years ago, which saw a large volume of international funds flow into Australia because of the way that it had avoided the crisis.”
This is not the first time authorities have mentioned Australia and money laundering in the same breath. A 2015 report called the International Narcotics Control Strategy named Australia and 60 other nations as a money laundering country.
The United States government claimed Australia is one of the world’s largest money laundering countries. Furthermore, the report mentioned the Australian Crime Commission’s conservative estimate that organised crime costs Australia $15 billion annually.
Will a Gambling Card Work?
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello is an advocate for cashless gambling. Dominello wants a gambling card introduced to help problem gamblers and stop money laundering.
Gamblers load the card with funds at the casino’s cashier desk. They fund their poker machine playing with fund on the card, which players must register for.
Crown Perth’s customers can use their debit cards to purchase chips at the gaming tables. This practice has been possible since July 27, 2020. Some gaming tables have electronic card readers installed, allowing customers to play with funds from their bank accounts.
This system is only available at some gaming tables and not at pokies currently.
Gambling cards will help prevent money laundering. The need to register personal details deters criminals in the first instance. They will simply head somewhere where it is easier to continue their criminal activity.