Australian Criminals Launder $710M via Country’s Slot Machines

A reported $710 million (AU$1 billion) in ill-gotten money is passed through Australia’s pokies, the term used to describe the physical slot machines found across Australia’s many gambling venues.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, which worked on reporting the case with fellow publications 60 Minutes and The Age, pokies have been used as a buffer for dirty money for years. These reports are substantiated by investigations by numerous agencies in the country, including the NSW Gaming and Liquor Department.

Authorities have evidence that New South Wales, for one, has been a hotbed for illicit cash, with the jurisdiction’s 95,000 slot machines used as the basis of money-laundering operations without owners’ knowledge. Other states are equally impacted.

Based on evidence, what were considered to be just well-heeled and discreet customers turned out to be part of a well-oiled syndicate that was running dirty money through the gambling machines. No names or arrests have been made.

According to CCTV footage seen by authorities, one Sydney gambling venue was frequented by customers who brought tens of thousands of dollars with them and played for extended periods of time, attempting to cover the money’s tracks. They were part of that same syndicate.

Criminals Love Jackpots

Apparently, many of the criminals were instructed to scout for “hot slot machines,” that is machines that were part of a progress network where the jackpot was “close” to dropping. While they couldn’t know when that would happen, the people tasked with finding those machines had a fair degree of success.

Once located, another person would be putting money into two machines at the same time and spin. According to NSW gaming investigator David Byrne, the sum cited by the media outlet is accurate.

Investigators led by Byrne and the NSW Gaming and Liquor Department have made a list of at least 130 consumers and 140 venues that were linked to money laundering. Allowing this in Australia is bad investigators explain.

“You’re talking about, at the worst level, child exploitation, human trafficking, firearms trafficking terrorism funding – all of those can be packaged up in the same conversation as money laundering.”

NSW gaming investigator David Byrne

Byrne offered pointed criticism to both the venues and gamblers who were conduits of those activities. He argued that family men having a meal out should not be forced to dine or walk past criminals laundering ill-gotten funds.

Cleaning up gambling is important for Australia and NSW. By the regulator’s estimate, the state will collect $1.86 billion in taxes from gambling, or up 27% increase from the previous period.  

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