Money Laundering Investigation into Aussie Pub Slots Called by Top Regulator

Posted on: December 13, 2021, 01:07h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2021, 02:10h.

The chief gambling regulator in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has called for an investigation into the extent to which criminals launder money through slot machines in the state’s non-gaming venues.

Philip Crawford
ILGA chair Philip Crawford addresses the press during last year’s public inquiry into Crown Resorts. Now he wants to see a similar investigation into slot machines at non-gaming venues. (Image: The Chronicle)

Philip Crawford, chairman of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), wrote to State Premier Dominic Perrottet late last month, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

He told Perrottet that gambling in the state’s pubs and clubs should face the same kind of in-depth public inquiry that examined Crown Resorts‘ casino operations last year.

Crawford also wants the state government to extend ILGA’s powers to oversee the non-gaming sector. He said he is currently hamstrung by inadequate laws that mean he can hold casinos to account, but not other venues. Even when they host banks of slots.

17 Percent of the World’s Slots

In New South Wales, there are 95,000 slot machines, or “pokies,” as they are known colloquially. The overwhelming majority of these are stationed in non-gaming venues, such as pubs, clubs, and hotels.

While Australia has just 0.3 percent of the world’s population, it has 17 percent of the world’s slots stationed in non-gaming venues. That totaled some 187,000 in 2017, according to the Australia Institute Tasmania.

In NSW, there is a significant legislative gap in the way we regulate gaming at The Star Casino, which has approximately 1,500 gaming machines, and the way we regulate gaming at hotels and registered clubs, which, together, are authorized to operate more than 94,000 gaming machines across the state,” Mr Crawford wrote.

He added he was concerned that criminal gangs were exploiting the regulatory gap by laundering money through slot machines.

$1B Per Year Laundered

Last month, NSW’s chief gaming investigator David Byrne told The Herald he believed at least A$1 billion (US$710 million) was being washed through slots at non-gaming venues nationwide.

Byrne shared surveillance video from an unnamed Sydney pub that showed a gang member feeding $27,000 ($19,000) into a slot machine and betting $1, before cashing out the rest as “winnings.”

The gang is suspected of being part of a major organized crime outfit laundering money through slot machines up and down Australia’s east coast.

Non-gaming venues are required to file suspicious transaction reports (STRs) as part of national anti-money laundering directives, just like casinos. But relatively few are doing so, despite evidence such transactions are significantly widespread.

Byrne advocates the introduction of cashless wagering that would “negate the ability for people to walk in with a bag of cash and put $30,000 into a machine.”