Pandemic Spurs Pokie Money Laundering in NSW
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase of money laundering via criminals as pokies are being used to move cash.
Criminals have been known to use any circumstances for gain. In New South Wales, criminal activity has increased regarding poker machines as a way to launder cash. Recent reports show that during the five months when COVID-19 restrictions were in place, money laundering reached a whole new level. There was an increase in pokie profits of $305 million. Experts believe this increase shows that a gambling card is needed.
Details of the Increase
Liquor and Gaming NSW shows a profit increase of over 10% when comparing pokie earnings to the same time period last year. Even though pubs and clubs were on lockdown and faced restrictions, the numbers were still up.
From June through October, profits for pokies increased to $3.1 billion, up from $2.8 billion last year. In July alone, the profits were up over 23% earning as much as $719 million in one month. Because of the noted increase, Minister for Customers Service Victor Dominello, wants to create a gambling card. The card can be used to help problem gamblers as well as stop money laundering.
The pokies would be cashless, and gamblers would have to register and load a money card before wagering can begin. Because of the need to load funds, money laundering activities could no longer take place as they have been.
Problems with Money Laundering
Philip Crawford, the chairman of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, stated that pokies being used for money laundering was brought up during the Bergin inquiry involving Crown Resorts operations in the city of Melbourne.
Crown Resorts was recently blocked from opening a casino in Sydney this month due to a recent inquiry. The company admitted that criminals probably used its Melbourne facility to launder money through various bank accounts.
According to Crawford, money laundering activity can be linked to people trafficking, drugs, terrorism financing, and child sexual exploitation. The pokies are targeted by criminals because they are easy to use for money laundering by simply washing the cash through the machine.
The chair pointed out that any reasonable steps that can be taken to reduce money laundering activity in New South Wales should be considered. The government as well as the industry needs to consider what can be done to stop it.
Right now, the local economy has become a swipe one of sorts as cash usage has dropped during the pandemic. With a gambling card, the opportunity for money laundering would be reduced via pokies. Problem gamblers would also be assisted as the card would allow for limits to be placed on gambling.
Others have spoken out about the need for a gambling card in the region. Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate, Tim Costello, has asked Premier Gladys Brejiklian to have her cabinet support such a card.
In a letter, Costello pointed out that New South Wales clubs and pubs are subject to money laundering on a regular basis via pokie machines. The gambling card would reduce this activity as well as increase the bottom line for the budget in NSW.
Minister Victor Dominello was the one to introduce the gambling card idea, pointing out its many benefits. The card would help with money laundering and provide an extended way for players to be checked for self-exclusion from gaming along with managing gambling spending or reducing gaming activity.
Something needs to be done to tackle the money laundering activity in the country. Australia was recently listed by the United States State Department as a primary jurisdiction of concern when it comes to money laundering activities. As long as criminals can use the pokies to launder funds, the activity will continue to be a problem.