Posted on: December 18, 2021, 02:28h.
Last updated on: December 20, 2021, 09:21h.
The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) is set to unleash its most powerful criminal intelligence agency. The target: the growing problem of slots money laundering in the non-gaming sector, which includes pubs and clubs.
The NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) will launch its investigation after a request by the state’s gaming regulator, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).
ILGA chief Philip Crawford has said his agency is powerless to tackle the issue because it does not have the remit to investigate non-gaming venues.
In a letter to NSW Premier Perrottet late last month, Crawford complained inadequate laws meant he could go after casinos, but was unable to hold non-gaming venues to account.
That’s despite the presence of 95,000 slot machines, or “pokies,” as they are known colloquially, stationed in non-gaming venues in NSW alone. Crawford’s agency believes more than A$1 billion (US$710 million) is being washed through slots nationwide.
Despite its reputation as an “intensely secretive” organization, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, the NSWCC is calling for public input into the investigation.
In a statement, NSWCC commissioner Michael Barnes invited current and former employees at pubs and clubs, or academics with an interest in the area, to offer their insights.
“Working with Liquor and Gaming NSW and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, we’ve established that last year, $85 billion was gambled in poker machines in pubs and clubs in NSW,” Barnes said Friday.
We simply don’t know how much of that was the proceeds of crime being laundered by or on behalf of criminal syndicates, but when so much money is involved, it is reasonable to suspect some level of criminal activity,” Barnes added.
The issue of money laundering in Australia’s gambling industry was thrust into the limelight by last year’s NSW public inquiry into the operations of Crown Resorts.
The James Packer-controlled casino giant was ultimately found to have facilitated money laundering. They did so by fostering relationships with foreign junket operators with links to organized crime. As a result, it was stripped of its Sydney gaming license.
Australia’s Big Chunk of Global Slots
The vast majority of Australia’s slots exist outside of casinos, in pubs, clubs, and hotels.
In fact, while the country has just 0.3 percent of the world’s population, it has 17 percent of the world’s slots in non-gaming venues, according to the Australia Institute Tasmania.
It’s not uncommon for some pubs and clubs to be equipped with rows of slot machines.
A recent episode of Australian current affairs program 60 Minutes appeared to show a criminal gang in an unnamed Sydney pub feeding $27,000 ($19,000) into a slot machine, betting $1, and then cashing out the rest as “winnings.”