NSW Crime Commission raises money laundering concerns

By Peter Lynch

The New South Wales (NSW) Crime Commission has raised concerns about the state’s poker machine profits, which it believes could be linked to money laundering.

Liquor and Gaming NSW reported gaming machine profits of AU$582.7m (US$447.9) and $629.6m for November and December 2020 respectively. The former was a 1.8% increase from November 2019, with the latter a 6.5% increase from December 2019.

Furthermore, gaming machine profits were $4.4bn between July and December 2020, up from $4bn in the same period a year prior. The increase in profits across NSW in 2020 occurred despite limitations on trading due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The totals have, therefore, fuelled concerns about widespread exploitation of poker machines as a money laundering avenue for criminals throughout the state.

NSW poker machines are particularly attractive to criminals due to their high load-up limit, which is significantly larger than other Australian states.

The commission claimed that money laundering opportunities had been limited by the closure of casinos in the early months of 2020, but that the illegal activity could be on the rise again during the country's recovery from the pandemic.

“It is possible that Australia will be perceived as a safe haven for the legal and illegal transfer of international funds following the way it is handling its COVID-19 response,” the commission said. “A similar observation was made following the global financial crisis several years ago, which saw a large volume of international funds flow into Australia because of the way that it had avoided the crisis.”

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