NEWS THAT MATTERS
Crying the election wolf -
Faehrmann and Greenwich howling mad
over money laundering in pubs and clubs
NSW politics remains paralysed by the influence of ClubsNSW, which is opposed to mandatory debit card use in poker machines. It is now being alleged by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann that criminals are laundering billions of dollars through the pokies each year under everybody’s nose.
11 November 2022
NOW that the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) have launched an audit of Sportsbet and Bet365 — to check their compliance with money laundering laws, and the NSW Crime Commission’s recent findings about the use of poker machines for money laundering – the Green Wolves in the NSW Upper House, led by Cate Faehrmann, along with Independent Alex Greenwich, have gone into a political feeding frenzy – point scoring, it would seem, on the back of alleged money laundering in clubs and pubs, for votes in the upcoming March election.
“It’s so easy to launder money through poker machines that they are basically black market ATMs and they are conveniently located in nearly every pub and club in the state,” said Faehrmann.
Huge donations from gambling interests have been paid to all sides of major politics in this state. According to Australian Electoral Commission donations data, from 1999 to 2021, the Labor, Liberal and National parties took more than $5 million in donations from gambling interests, dominated by ClubsNSW, which paid them more than $3.4 million.
A joint inquiry by multiple law enforcement bodies into money laundering in NSW issued a final report, which claims that large sums of the proceeds of crime are being gambled by criminals in pubs and clubs across the state.
NSW Crime Commissioner Michael Barnes said poker machines offered criminals one of the last remaining safe havens where cash from criminal enterprises could be "cleaned" or gambled with virtual impunity.
"At the moment, serious offenders can enter NSW pubs and clubs, sit down next to patrons in gaming rooms, and openly feed large sums of cash from their crimes into poker machines with no real fear of detection," Barnes said.
"The lack of traceable data collected by electronic gaming machines (EGMs) means the exact scale of this criminal activity is impossible to determine but it is clear from our investigations it involves many billions of dollars every year."
Well, there are some pretty dumb criminals in NSW, but you have to question how dumb they would be to attempt to launder money through the poker machines. Let’s face it, today’s poker machines are not a ‘sure bet’. Otherwise, why would pokies drain $6.4 billion from NSW communities every year?
And you have to question how dumb the NSW Crime Commissioner is to try and sell the public a ‘bill of goods’ that criminals are so dumb they just throw money away on something where they cannot control the odds – guaranteeing they’ll walk away with only minimal losses and a massive bundle of squeaky clean money. Poker machines are not that generous!
Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the Commissioner’s report, and before any changes are made, there has to be an evidence-based report on the prevalence or association of organised crime in club and pub poker machine gambling.
Yet NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is still committed to implementing mandatory cashless gaming cards for poker machines - a contradiction in itself. He said, “it's a matter not of if, but how, it's done” – is, pardon the pun, a high stakes gamble.
And while Cate Faehrmann introduced a motion into the NSW Parliament condemning money laundering via poker machines, which called on the Government to urgently prioritise the development of measures that will stamp out the practice, and which passed the NSW Legislative Council with agreement by all parties, ClubsNSW cried foul.
ClubsNSW has slammed moves towards cashless gambling cards that are being supported by Dominic Perrottet and the Greens, claiming that it punishes punters.
The ‘pokie's crew’ say that a cashless gambling card will make them feel like ‘criminals’, and that that the Premier should be focusing on the ‘bad guys’. But Perrottet has repeated his promise to crack down on money laundering in the gaming sector, saying he would “work with, not against” industry representatives to press them on introducing cashless gaming cards.
“We can’t sit idly by. Action needs to be taken… we need to move to a cashless system,” Perrottet said.
Gambling addiction is a real problem in NSW and positive measures need to be taken to control it – but a cashless debit card? The Albanese Government has just repealed the previous Morrison Government’s legislation enforcing a cashless debit card onto certain First Nation’s people because it imposed all the controls of a nanny-state – a scheme, that had Morrison been re-elected, would have been foisted onto pensioners as well. And now Perrottet is kowtowing to a similar scheme because of minority political noise and a looming election.
When you delve into the NSW Crime Commission’s recent findings, it found that very few criminals were using machines to launder money but many criminals were just simply gambling away some of their crime profits – simply enjoying a flutter every now and then and to take time out from their usual nefarious activities.
ClubsNSW executive officer, Josh Landis said, “What’s happening is criminals are spending the proceeds of crime [on the pokies]. Guess what? They spend on everything from tattoos and handbags, to jewellery and jet skis.
“They spend it on food and groceries. So, do we say that Coles and Woolworths are the recipients of the proceeds of crime? Of course not.
“The [NSW] Crime Commission has recommended a solution that only applies to pokie machines but have done nothing to resolve the broader issue of criminals spending money.”
And have no doubt about it, a cashless gambling card would provide a mandate to further and stricter controls on how people can spend their money – thrusting people further into a police state.
Personally, I have never been able to understand why anyone wants to feed a poker machine with hard-earned cash! There has never been anyone in my family who was bitten by the ‘gambling bug’ – maybe, it’s because we have all been born with the same congenital infliction: very short arms and extremely long pockets. But for many families it not so easy and gambling does ruin lives – yet government will always be attracted to the huge financial windfall provided by the clubs and other betting agencies and only pay 'lip-service' to solving the problem.
So, what’s the answer? To start with, break the gambling industries stranglehold on politics and end government addiction to poker machine revenue. Once the government has kicked its habit maybe gamblers can be convinced to kick theirs.
A much better solution than ‘crying the election wolf’ – people before self-serving political interests.
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