$1 Billion Laundered Through Pubs and Clubs Pokies

An investigation into money laundering reveals up to $1 billion is laundered through Australian pubs and clubs pokies machines every year.

Pubs and clubs with pokies need to do more to prevent money laundering, according to a new report. The Sydney Morning Herald claims up to $1 billion in laundered through pokies in Australia’s pubs and clubs.

The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and 60 Minutes combined for an investigation into money laundering. Their study, which includes CCTV evidence, clearly shows a syndicate commandeering a pokies venue and laundering tens of thousands of dollars. They do this without a single member of staff questioning their actions.

Two different methods are employed by the criminals. One shows how one person continually feeds banknotes into two clubs and pubs machines at once. He managed to feed $27,000 into the machine in only one hour. The man bet a mere $1 before withdrawing the rest of his balance as clean gambling winnings.

Another saw some “players” in the group work together on linked pokies as they chased an almost guaranteed jackpot. At no stage did any of the pubs or clubs staff challenge the party.

Sheer Scale of Problem in Pubs and Clubs is Incredible

David Byrne is the chief NSW gaming investigator for the NSW Gaming and Liquor department. He rarely gives interviews but broke his silence about the pubs and clubs issue. Byrne revealed his department identified 140 pubs and clubs and more than 130 individuals associated with money laundering.

“That’s only the Sydney metro area, that’s not the entire NSW landscape. You’re talking about, at the worst level, child exploitation, human trafficking, firearms trafficking, terrorism funding, all of those can be packed up in the same conversation as money laundering.”

“I don’t think that clubs, where good, family orientated people across NSW go to have dinner, want patrons to be walking past organised criminals laundering cash. I think, based on what we’re finding, pubs and clubs need a wake-up call, definitely.”

Byrne suggested scrutiny on pubs and clubs should be more in line with the recent royal commission into Crown Resorts and the investigation into Star Entertainment Group.

“If it’s good for them, then it’s probably good for pubs and clubs as well.”

The Continued Fight Against Money Laundering

State and federal agencies’ investigations suggest pubs and clubs are failing to report money laundering concerns. Only 5.5% of NSW venues with pokies have reported concerns with AUSTRAC since January 2018. This is an extremely low figure considering intelligence suggests the problem is more widespread.

Pubs and clubs submitting reports often do so late, undermining law enforcement.

Cashless cards are one possible solution to the money laundering pandemic. Bryne stated the cards negate the ability for people to enter pubs and clubs with $30,000 in cash and feed it into a machine.

“It’s definitely a disruption if nothing more and would go a long way to reducing the frequency of this type of behaviour.”

NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello is against the government issuing such cards. However, he is open to the idea if the industry creates and polices them.

“I don’t think it should be government-issued at all, governments are not in the business of gambling. That’s a matter for industry, it should be an industry-issued card.”

What Is Money Laundering?

Money laundering is the term used to describe the act of making ill-gotten money look legitimate. Criminals, such as drug dealers and people traffickers, use cash to fund their activities in order to avoid detection from banks and law enforcement agencies. This comes with its own inerrant problem: what do you do with a large amount of cash?

You cannot walk into a bank with $20,000 or $100,000 in notes and deposit it into your account. You can try but it raises a lot of questions, mostly about where that money came from. Furthermore, it is possible to track cash via their serial numbers.

Criminals target pokies and gaming machines in pubs and clubs for money laundering. They feed the machines with large sums of money, gamble for a short while, and withdraw their “winnings.” They are then free to deposit the money into their bank by claiming they won big at the casino.