New South Wales Trials Cashless Pokies

Wests Newcastle in New South Wales is running a 12-week trial where 38 of its Aristocrat Leisure machines become cashless pokies.

The Australian government’s war on money laundering continues with a trial of cashless pokies in New South Wales. Officials first floated the idea of cashless pokies a year ago, but nothing happened. However, that is changing with a 12-week trial at Wests Newcastle starting in August.

Wests Newcastle players will notice a significant difference in 38 Aristocrat Leisure machines next month. It is no longer possible to insert cash into the poker machines. Instead, an opt-in digital wallet, linked to the players’ identity and an Australian bank account, connects to the device using Bluetooth technology. The player transfers funds from their wallet to the machine before playing. Wests Newcastle estimates the trial affects approximately 300 patrons.

A successful trial paves the way for more venues offering cashless pokies. Gambling lobbies strongly believe cashless pokies not only prevent money laundering but also help identify problem gamblers and limit players’ spending.

Hospitality and Racing Minister Kevin Anderson revealed Aristocrat Leisure is supporting the trial. IGT and Utopia Gaming were approved, but Aristocrat is favoured.

“The trials will explore different technologies and solutions with the common goal of addressing harm minimisation and anti-money laundering.”

Will Cashless Pokies Stop Money Laundering?

The New South Wales Crime Commission published a paper earlier this month highlighting the link between pokies and criminal activity. Criminals frequent Australian pubs, clubs, and casinos, using machines to wash their dirty money.

The paper showed how easy it is for criminals to launder money through Australian poker machines. They load up the machine with $5,000 cash, place a $5 bet, and cash out the $4,995 balance. The cashier processes the $4,995 balance with what looks like seemingly legitimate funds. The criminal or a team of them repeat the process at the same venue or across several properties.

The ticket only shows the amount of money owed to the “winner.” It does not display the amount of money wagered or the time taken. It is likely this will feature at some stage, and casinos investigating when customers cash out a large amount in a short time period.

A November 2021 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald reported the cost of money laundering through Australian machines. They showed a man feeding $27,000 into a machine in only one hour before placing a $1 bet and withdrawing the balance.

Chief NSW gaming investigator for the NSW Gaming and Liquor Department, David Byrne, estimates that criminals launder $1 billion this way annually.

Cashless pokies not only prevent this type of money laundering but eradicate it entirely. Criminals require anonymity to avoid law enforcement. Connecting their identification and bank accounts to the app removes that air of secrecy.

The First Step Of Combatting Criminal Activity

Cashless pokies are the first step in the fight against criminal activity. Justin Field, Independent NSW MP, suggest a cap on the amount player can feed into a machine is needed.

“It is inexplicable why players of NSW poker machines can legally load up to $10,000 cash. These problems can be addressed very quickly with simply regulatory and legislative reform, like reducing the load limits and moving to cashless pokies.”

Pokies in New South Wales have a $10,000 cash limit imposed. However, this is $1,000 in Victoria and the Northern Territories and only $100 in Queensland and South Australia.

Campaigners welcome the cashless pokies trial, but it is a drop in the ocean when looking at the broader picture. The trial involved 38 machines at Wests Newcastle, but New South Wales has 95,000 machines, with most stationed outside casinos. Those machines outside casinos are not subject to the same stringent levels of oversight as casino-based machines.

Australia accounts for a mere 0.3% of the world’s population, yet the country houses 20% of the world’s pokies.