Poker machines have produced a $305 million increase in profits according to the latest figures that Liquor and Gaming NSW has published.
This represents a 10 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2019 and comes in a year in which pubs, casinos, and clubs have seen their fair share of restrictions.
So what drove this increase in revenue in a year in which pokie enthusiasts have been forced to stay at home for long periods due to COVID-19 lockdowns?
According to experts in the field, the spike in profits is down to one thing only – illegal money laundering. They claim that criminals use NSW pokies to launder their illegally obtained cash and have been very productive this year in particular.
$716 Million in Pokies’ Profits in July 2020
In the period between June and October, pokie profits rose from $2.8 billion in 2019 to $3.1 billion this year.
The most significant spike was recorded in July of this year when pokies revenue exploded and profits rose by 23.3 per cent. In July 2019, pokies profits were $581 million while this July they climbed to $716 million.
Gambling Card to Tackle Money Laundering and Problem Gambling
Victor Dominello, Minister for Customer Service who is currently championing the introduction of a gambling card, said that money laundering is a big concern and that the introduction of a gambling card would stamp it out and help problem gamblers in the process.
If the gambling card Mr Dominello proposes is introduced, pokies would essentially become cashless. This will mean that if a pokies player wants to gamble, he will first have to pre-load money into his card.
Mr Philip Crawford, Chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) said that a gambling card would greatly assist in strategies that could help problem gamblers and tackle money laundering happening through pokies.
However, he also stressed that playing the pokies is legal in NSW and that a lot of players don’t develop a gambling addiction when they use them. As such, he thinks that technology of this sort cannot be used to interfere with legal gambling.
A Gambling Card Would Increase NSW Budget Too
Alliance for Gambling Reform advocate, Tim Costello, on the other hand, has already written to Premier Gladys Berejiklian asking her government to stand behind the idea of a gambling card.
He says in his letter that criminals launder money in NSW pubs and clubs every day. The only way that authorities can tackle this problem, according to Mr Costello, is by introducing a cashless gambling card.
He thinks that this would reduce money laundering, and that will result in less crime in the state. According to the gambling reform advocate, at the end of the day, this will also increase the NSW budget bottom line.
In his letter, he emphasizes the dual benefits of the cashless card. He says that it will put an immediate end to money laundering via poker machines, but will also serve as back-up to the proposed self-exclusion checks that venues are trying to implement.
In addition to these two advantages, a cashless gambling card will also help players manage their gambling spending and will provide alternative routes that compulsive gamblers could take to reduce their gambling.
Money Laundering in Australia is Big Business
According to people with insiders’ information on the gambling industry, money laundering is a big business in Australia. June Buchanan, who is a professor at Macquarie Business School, said that money obtained via illegal activities is laundered every day.
She claimed that money laundering through pokies is one method that criminals use to enter dirty money within the economy and, in turn, fund their future drug activities and support terrorism.
The academic said that the US State Department considered Australia as a “primary jurisdiction of concern” when it came to money laundering and that this shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Mr Crawford shares Ms Buchanan’s concern and says that poker machines are targeted by criminals because they represent a simple and cost-effective method of washing cash through a machine.
He thinks that any reasonable steps that would help to reduce or root out money laundering in NSW should be seriously considered by both the government and the industry.
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