Cashless ‘Pokies’ on Trial in New South Wales to Curb Slots Money Laundering

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) is rolling out a trial of cashless slots gambling, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Officials want to see whether the measure can help reduce money laundering and problem gambling in the state.

“Pokies” at a club in Sydney New South Wales, pictured above. There is currently nothing to prevent players from feeding $10,000 into the machines, gambling minimally, and receiving a credit slip in return. (Image: Newcastle Herald).

The 12-week trial will see gamblers opt in for a digital wallet linked to their identity and personal bank account. They will be able to transfer credit onto the machines from their mobile phones via Bluetooth.

The experiment is supported by the gambling industry and will be overseen by Australia’s global slots giant Aristocrat Gaming. NSW’s pubs and clubs, which host most of the state’s slot machines, have been resistant to the plan.

The news comes in the midst an investigation by the state’s most powerful criminal intelligence agency, the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC), into the problem of slot machine money laundering in the non-gaming sector.

Lack of Oversight

There are 95,000 slot machines, or “pokies,” as they are known colloquially, in NSW. Most are stationed outside of casinos, which means they are not subject to the same stringent levels of oversight.

Australia has just 0.3 percent of the world’s population but 17 percent of its non-gaming-venue pokies. It also has some of the highest problem gambling rates in the world.

The new e-wallets will enable players to set spending limits and receive real-time data on their spending.

NSW gaming regulator ILGA recently complained it did not have the powers to tackle the issue of money laundering in the non-gaming sector.

ILGA wants the pubs and clubs held to account. The organization’s chief investigator, David Byrne, told SMH in December he believed at least A$1 billion (US$710 million) was being washed through slots at non-gaming venues across the nation.

Field Day for Criminals

Independent NSW MP Justin Field suggested there should be a cap on the amount players can feed into the machines and on the amount of credit they can receive in return.

It is inexplicable why NSW poker machines can legally be loaded with up to $10,000 cash,” he told SMH. “These problems can be addressed very quickly with simple regulatory and legislative reform, like reducing the load limits and moving to cashless gaming.”

Credit limits for slots in non-gaming venues in other Australian states are much lower, $1,000 in Victoria and the Northern Territories and $100 in Queensland and South Australia.

In NSW, there is little to prevent crooks inserting $5,000 in criminal proceeds into a machine, before losing $5 and then cashing out a ticket for $4,995 credit. And there is nothing to stop them doing again and again at different venues.

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