NSW Crime Commission pushes cashless playing card on clubs to target dirty money in slots

Barnes said it was no longer possible for the industry to claim ignorance about the extent of the dirty money being funneled through the machines.

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“If they want to say, ‘We need drug money to support our businesses,’ they can say it. The law-abiding members of the community will say, ‘No, you must take steps to prevent criminals from spending the proceeds of crime’. ”

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said on Wednesday he was focusing on working with ClubsNSW and the industry to resolve the issues highlighted in the report.

“We need to work closely with the industry to get the right outcome for everyone, and I’m committed to doing that … because there is no place and zero tolerance for criminal behavior in our state,” he said.

“This cannot continue. And we as a state must do everything we can to solve it. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

An NSW Labor spokesperson said the opposition would consider the “very serious and worrying” report and consult law enforcement before finalizing its policies ahead of the March state election.

Project Islington, which took advantage of the Crime Commission’s special powers to conduct forced hearings of criminals and their associates, was supported by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC), the NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office and the NSW Police Force.

The project also collected data on law enforcement intelligence holdings and interviewed industry stakeholders and personnel at EGM sites.

While middle-level criminals threw large amounts of money through the poker machines, they did it for personal entertainment. Some of them were involved in crime only to fund their gambling habits.

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“The magnitude of money laundering through EIAs cannot be precisely quantified, but the research estimates it to be widespread and significant,” the report said.

“Based on multiple sources of information, the investigation was able to determine that billions of dollars in crime proceeds are likely deposited into NSW through BAVs each year.”

The state government is currently testing a voluntary cashless card on 36 slot machines in Wests Newcastle, which identifies a player and requires a bank account.

But Project Islington found that a “voluntary system (where gamblers can choose to use cash or a player card) doesn’t address money laundering, because criminals handling the proceeds of crime will simply use cash.”

ClubsNSW and the AHA said the commission’s finding that cleaning up the proceeds of crime through poker machines was considered “high risk and inefficient” and that the practice was not widespread was an industry justification.

“For over a year, the NSW club industry has been accused of laundering criminal gangs
considerable sums of dirty money through poker machines. Today, the NSW Crime Commission revealed that those allegations were — and are — completely unfounded,” said Josh Landis, CEO of ClubsNSW.

John Whelan, chief executive of AHA NSW said: “At the same time, having the Crime Commission call for a sudden ban on all cash at locations is an unwarranted overstatement.

“There is no justification for the government to oversee the recreational spending of the law-abiding people of NSW. If criminals are the problem, let’s tackle them.”

But Barnes said this was a narrow interpretation of money laundering. “Large amounts of cash are gambled as the proceeds of crime. That is what money laundering is.”

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Charles Livingstone, head of gambling research at Monash University, said governments cannot properly reform the sector without following the advice of the Crime Commission.

‘You can’t clean this up until you do what the committee has said. If you really want to deal with the damage, you need to introduce a system that can protect people from the ravages of gambling,” he said.

“Ultimately, this is meant to be harmless entertainment for suburban people. Why is it necessary for someone to put up to $10,000 in a machine?”

Livingstone added that pubs and clubs that did the right thing had nothing to fear, but “if not, they should bear the consequences”.

Independent upper house MP Justin Field called on Perrottet and Minns to support the mandatory cashless play recommendation, stressing that it was time for a two-pronged response to ensure that poker machines are regulated in the public interest.

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