In New South Wales (NSW), where there are over 95,000 licensed gaming machines, a cashless gaming trial is about to commence in August and will run for 12 weeks. The initiative was announced by Liquor &Gaming NSW in 2021, as an initiative to combat money laundering and reduce gambling harm. Global gaming technology organisation, Aristocrat Gaming, together with the Wests Newcastle club gaming venue, will trial the initiative and implement cashless gaming machines. IGT and Utopia Gaming have also been approved to conduct cashless trials.
The trial involves cashless payments being used for all club services, including for play on electronic gaming machines, and will affect approximately 300 patrons and involve a small sample of 38 gaming machines at the venue. Patrons participating in the trial at Wests Newcastle will have to link their phones to the gaming machine via Bluetooth and will be able to directly transfer funds from a digital wallet. The technology will enable patrons to:
- set spend and time limits for play;
- speak to a staff member for assistance;
- exclude themselves from the gaming venue;
- use their mobile wallet to pay for a meal, membership and gaming services;
- only reload their cashless gaming card when they are off the gaming room floor; and
- utilise an approved Australian bank account for reloading currency. Credit cards are not permitted.
Issues related to money laundering and problem gambling have recently been prominently exposed through Inquiries in NSW involving Crown Resorts and the Star Entertainment Group and Royal Commissions involving the casino operator and licence in Victoria and Western Australia, with cashless technologies seen as an important way of identifying and minimising these risks. Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment Group have agreed to work with the NSW regulator to introduce cashless gaming at their casinos to help tackle money laundering, but no specific timelines have been given.
In December 2021, an inquiry into money laundering and pubs and clubs was announced in NSW by Michael Barnes, the Commissioner of the NSW Crime Commission. Together, with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Commission has established that in 2020, A$85 billion was gambled in poker machines in pubs and clubs in NSW. The Commission advised that it simply does not know how much of that was the proceeds of crime being laundered by or on behalf of criminal syndicates and went on to say that when so much money is involved it is reasonable to suspect some level of criminal activity. Inquiries are ongoing with issues papers having recently been released seeking information in relation to the employment and training of staff in licensed venues with electronic gaming machines and electronic gaming machine data and transaction monitoring opportunities to better prevent and detect money laundering.
Furthermore, AUSTRAC, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, responsible for preventing, detecting and responding to criminal abuse of the financial system to protect the community from serious and organised crime recently issued a regulatory guide “Pubs and Clubs with Gaming Machines” to assist venue operators gain a thorough understanding of their anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing obligations and the impacts on venues.
Between them, the findings from the NSW cashless gaming trial and the NSW Crime Commission Inquiry into money laundering in pubs and clubs will provide some insight into the extent that proceeds of crime are being laundered through gaming venues by or on behalf of criminal syndicates and the potential for cashless gaming to combat money laundering and minimise gambling harm.