NSW gaming authority introduces new enhancements

By Noah Taylor Updated
Crown Barangaroo set to open by the end of March

The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has announced a series of enhancements to its regulatory approach, as it prepares to transition to a standalone casino regulator.

Inside Asian Gaming reports the changes come following confirmation from the state government in August 2021 that it agreed to support all 19 recommendations from the Bergin report, released in February 2021, in relation to the regulation of casinos in the state.

The Bergin report als recommended that Crown Resorts be found unsuitable to hold a casino licence for its $2.2 billion Crown Sydney development, pending implementation of significant changes.

While new legislation around casino regulation, including formation of a new standalone casino regulator is expected to be introduced in mid-2022, ILGA said it was also introducing a range of enhancements to its structure and capabilities in the interim.

These will include functional separation of casino regulation from liquor and gaming regulation, changing the appointment of the current ILGA chairperson Philip Crawford from part-time to full-time, the appointment of a new ILGA board member with anti-money laundering expertise, the allocation of additional resources to relevant teams within the Department of Customer Service to better support ILGA’s legislative functions and powers and the development of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Department and AUSTRAC to strengthen collaboration and information sharing.

Mr Crawford said the interim arrangements would enhance the management of existing and emerging risks in the current casino regulatory environment, particularly those related to money laundering and other financial crimes.

“We need improved capacity now and that’s what these interim arrangements will provide for,” Mr Crawford said.

“ILGA will use the new arrangements to further enhance its ability to identify and address organised crime in casinos and to expand its cooperation with the ACIC, AUSTRAC and the New South Wales Police Force.”

Money laundering at NSW poker machines exposed

New SouthWales poker machines are being used as money laundering machines for illicit cash that is easily “in the hundreds of millions of dollars”, according to evidence obtained by state and federal authorities.

The scale of Australia’s pokies crime problem has been revealed by one of the nation’s most senior gambling industry officials and comes as CCTV from a central Sydney pokies venue shows a money laundering syndicate operating with impunity.

The vision reveals the syndicate effectively commandeering the pokies venue to launder tens of thousands of dollars, with a large number of people apparently involved in the coordinated scheme.

It shows two different methods: some in the group working on linked gaming machines chasing an almost guaranteed jackpot, while another is feeding banknotes into two poker machines at once.

In an hour, the man feeds $27,000 into the machine, then bets just $1 and claims the rest as “clean” gambling winnings.

The group is suspected to have operated in several venues and is one of several criminal syndicates using poker machines in pubs,clubs and casinos down Australia’s east coast.

Gaming investigator talks about pokies dirty money problem

In a rare interview, chief NSW gaming investigator David Byrne said multi-agency investigations indicated the sheer size of the pokies dirty money problem in the state, in comments likely to put pressure on the NSW government to act to counter organised crime.

Extrapolated to other states with pokies, the figure could be more than $1 billion, Mr Byrne said.

In the first four weeks after the COVID-19 lockdown ended, Mr Byrne’s teams of investigators at the NSW Gaming and Liquor department identified 140 pubs and clubs and more than 130 individual gamblers associated with money laundering activity.

“That’s only in the Sydney metro area, that’s not the entire NSW landscape,” he said.

Money laundering is the process of taking illicit cash from criminal enterprises and making it look like legitimate earnings, or, in this case, winnings from gambling.

“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,” Mr Byrne said.

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