ClubsNSW fights back against whistleblowers’ claims
The lobby group representing clubs across New South Wales has taken the state’s gambling regulator to court, requesting it hand over information about allegations of widespread money laundering at its venues.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that lawyers representing ClubsNSW have gone to the Federal Court, saying it was tipped off about a whistleblower going to the industry regulator, Liquor and Gaming NSW, after MPs, including Finance Minister Damien Tudehope, spoke in parliament about money laundering through poker machines in NSW.
The subpoena was sent to the regulator, which ordered the independent inquiry into casino group Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino licence in NSW, on the same day the explosive Bergin report exposing serious governance failings at Crown was tabled.
Money laundering has emerged as a big problem for the industry after the Bergin inquiry found evidence of dirty money being washed through Crown’s Melbourne and Sydney casinos.
The chair of the regulator Philip Crawford warned money laundering was also occurring in NSW.
“Where do the money launderers take their money…we just don’t want it washing into the suburban pubs and clubs,” he said.
ClubsNSW subpoena alleges former employee leaked confidential information
The subpoena said ClubsNSW believes Troy Stolz, it’s former anti-money laundering compliance auditor turned whistleblower “may have disseminated confidential information” to Liquor and Gaming NSW “contrary to his post-employment restraints”.
ClubsNSW was “put on this train of inquiry” after comments made in the upper house by independent MP Justin Field and Mr Tudehope “regarding poker machines and money laundering, which indicate that Mr Stolz has been engaging with Liquor and Gaming NSW.”
Mr Stolz is also being sued by ClubsNSW after he gave a confidential ClubsNSW board paper to independent MP Andrew Wilikie.
The paper, written in May 2019, outlined ClubsNSW’s concerns about poor levels of money laundering compliance within its 770 member clubs.
ClubsNSW employs more than 35,000 people.
ClubsNSW is a significant donor to both sides of politics and was exempt from a ban introduced in 2010, which prevents donations in NSW from liquor and gaming business entities.
Mr Stolz said the February 22 hearing in the Federal Court would make whistleblowers fearful to speak up.
“If ClubsNSW were to be successful in this application in the Federal Court, it certainly would end whistleblowers coming forward to Liquor and Gaming NSW, other agencies and at all,” he said.
Liquor and Gaming NSW were approached and did not wish to comment.
Mr Field said the reputation of the gambling industry “is in tatters after the Crown inquiry and the demonstrated links with organised crime and money laundering.”
“We would never have had a Crown inquiry without whistleblowers who were prepared to come forward with evidence of illegal activities,” he said.
“The government should resist vigorously legal tactics by ClubsNSW and protect whistleblowers who are shining a light on illegal activities in the pokies industry.”
Poker machines can be used to wash money because a person can enter a club and put through a significant amount of money in a machine and then cash out most of that sum within a short period of time, without having to identify themselves at the entrance.
In a statement, ClubsNSW said: “This matter is playing out in court, and we are confident the evidence will support our position.”