New South Wales clubs lobby investigating digital gambling wallet 

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
New South Wales clubs lobby investigating digital gambling wallet 

A digital wallet for pokies players could be the solution to curtailing suspicious activities at New South Wales gaming machines.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the state’s clubs lobby is investigating the use of a digital wallet for players, to try and reduce the number of players using machines for money laundering.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s centralised monitoring system, which records the activity of every machine in 15-minute intervals, has uncovered significant “suspicious activity”.

In one report, for a single local government area over a 12-hour period on August 4, 2020, there were repeated cases of player behaviour that pointed to money laundering.

In one instance, $1485.79 was put into a machine at 2pm and the exact amount taken out there minutes later without a single bet being placed.

There were many similar examples, where at least $1000 was put into a machine, no or very few bets were placed and then several minutes later, the identical amount was taken out.

The scathing Bergin inquiry report into Crown Resorts found the casino giant “facilitated money laundering”, prompting the chair of the NSW gaming authority to say money laundering is also an issue plaguing clubs and pubs.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, who has responsibility for gaming, will face budget estimates on Monday, where he is likely to be pressed on the government’s gaming reforms in the wake of the report.

Poker machines are dispersed across 4000 venues in NSW, with only 1500 of the total 96,000 machines in the Star casino.

Gaming machines can be used to assist the money laundering process where the origin of illegally obtained funds is concealed by a sequence of transfers or transactions.

Gambling researcher Charles Livingstone said the patterns shown in the data indicated obvious money laundering.

“There is no doubt that money laundering is endemic in NSW because there are just so many machines and clubs and people can wander from club to club and get rid of a lot of money very quickly,” Mr Livingstone said.

“Usually people place a couple of bets, so they don’t raise suspicion but that’s not always the case.

The Bergin report said a proposed NSW government-issued gambling card would be a powerful tool to combat money laundering and organised crime.

Mr Dominello wants to introduce the card in a bid to take organised crime out of pubs and clubs and help problem gamblers.

Nationals and clubs don’t want gambling card

However, the plan is causing a bitter division within the government, with Deputy Premier John Barilaro insisting the Nationals would never support it.

Last month Mr Barilaro tweeted: “It’s a knee-jerk reaction to suggest more red tape for the hospitality sector by way of a gambling card, when it’s recovering from one of its toughest years. The Nationals will never support this.”

The clubs’ industry also strongly opposes the card, but is investigating a digital wallet, which would not be compulsory and would be operated by each venue.

Hotels also oppose the gambling card.

ClubsNSW has submitted its proposal for a digital wallet trial to the government’s gaming machine technology working group.

Under its proposal, there could be personal spend limits, daily or weekly transaction limits and large payouts would be “quarantined”.

A spokesman for ClubsNSW said: “ClubsNSW does not support a system where public servants oversee people’s gambling activities, nor do we support a mandatory card-based approach to cashless gambling.

“There are a range of alternatives involving a gradual introduction of venue-based digital payments worth considering, as set out in our proposal,” the spokesman said.

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