Suburban pokies used to ‘wash’ profits of crime
Dirty money is being "washed" through suburban gaming machines to enable crooks to bank their proceeds without raising suspicion.
The money laundering operations are taking place on a smaller scale across many venues to avoid raising the suspicion of operators.
The Sunday Telegraph has obtained the results of a secret NSW government audit of two NSW venues where scores of suspicious transactions were detected.
The audit examined the income and outgoings of individual pokie machines over 24 hours.
At the first venue in Western Sydney there was one incidence of $1692.32 being put into a gamine machine, but with no play occurring.
Instead, the pokie player obtains a receipt from the machine to reclaim the money, which is now "clean".
The time it took to load the machine and reclaim the money was eight minutes. In total, there were 17 pokie plays at the venue that have been deemed as "suspicious".
The audit also examined a venue in southern NSW, where 25 suspicious pokie plays were detected with amounts of more than $1400 were put into different machines before being cashed back out a few minutes later.
It is understood the audit is set to be expanded to include other licensed venues as part of a departmental investigations into suspicious gaming.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello had been pushing for the industry to adopt a cashless card to stamp out money laundering.
Instead, the state's largest RSL and leagues clubs have declared they would introduce digital wallets for poker machines as a trial - a move Mr Dominello last week described as "a positive step".
The wallet will be linked to identity, a bank account and with harm minimisation protections.
The move to clean up the industry follows a damning internal report prepared by ClubSAFE - the responsible gambling and compliance arm of Clubs NSW - in May 2019, which claimed the level of compliance among 770 clubs across NSW of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing was "at best 5-10 per cent".
"This is what is driving the ice epidemic - money being laundered unchecked through pokies," an industry source said.
"There is talk that a bikie boss recently laundered a million dollars through various poker machines in country towns."
Exclusive figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show the latest gaming machine profits for the month of February have come in at more than $528 million.
Added to the more than $545 million in gaming profits recorded in January, the figures show the state's pokies addiction has netted the industry more than $1 billion in profit in just two months.
Originally published as Suburban pokies used to 'wash' profits of crime