Australian pokie machines posted a $305 million improvement year-over-year despite the covid-19 lockdown, suggesting that criminals have been using pokies to launder money, Liquor and Gaming NSW numbers show.
Pokies Results Soar Despite Pandemic Dragging On
Australia’s poker machines profits have soared, despite the five-month lockdown which suspended most activities and shuttered non-essential businesses, including casinos.
According to numbers published by Liquor and Gaming NSW and cited by The Sydney Morning Herald, poker machine profits increased by $305 million, or 10% year-over-year. This comes despite a lockdown that had most clubs, pubs and other licensed venues barred from operating and stemming the flow of customers.
Liquor and Gaming NSW reported that between June and October, poker machines drove $3.1 billion in profits from $2.8 billion a year before. In July, profits were $581 million or 23.3% higher than July 2019.
A Gambling Card to Tackle Money-Laundering Through Pokies
Some of this uptick in activity is associated with criminal activities, says the regulator. These numbers come at a time when Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello is looking to introduce a gambling card to help tackle reckless gambling behavior but also crackdown on unregulated markets.
The move was met with strong opposition, with critics arguing that enforcing a gambling card could be devastating for licensed businesses driving revenue through poker machines. The move comes amid a broader investigation citing the name of Australia’s leading casino, Crown Resorts, which has been embroiled in a pickle of its own.
Money laundering through poker machines isn’t a new thing, says Chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority Philip Crawford who cited Crown’s operations in Melbourne. A gambling card would allow for the government to have more control and track transactions.
Anyone who wishes to play would need to pre-load their card in the same way the Opal public card operates. While some have called this too obtrusive, others have welcomed the move as it would allow for more transparency in how and who spends money on gambling, the government argues.
Money-Laundering Linked to Drugs, People Trafficking and Worse
Stemming money-laundering through pokie machines isn’t just about the gambling industry, Crawford explains. Dirty money is associated with child sexual exploitation, people trafficking, funding terrorism, and other illegal and deplorable activities, he clarified. Commenting on the issue, Crawford had this to add:
“Poker machines get targeted by criminal elements because they are a simple and cost-effective way of money laundering by washing cash through a machine.”-Chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority Philip Crawford
Crawford is one of those people who believe that leveraging technology would foil rampant money-laundering and bring responsible parties to light.
Another reason to see gambling cards introduced is to reduce or suspend the use of physical money, something that is now a leading topic among Las Vegas casinos looking to implement cashless technologies.
Others, such as the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR), have called for the swift introduction of a gambling card, citing money-laundering as the reason why. Tim Costello from the AGR has addressed a letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian to seek and enact a gambling card sooner rather than later.
Costello believes that should the solution be deployed, it would put an immediate end to money laundering. In the meantime, pokies continue to post untypically high numbers amid the pandemic and lockdown.