Fears cashless gambling would increase gambling harm if not done right - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Fears cashless gambling would increase gambling harm if not done right

May 13, 2021

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The Alliance for Gambling Reform has flagged concerns around today’s announcement of changes to help Crown Casino in its pursuit for a gambling licence at Barangaroo in Sydney.

Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said many points of the agreement made between the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) and Crown were welcome, but there were some serious red flags to be addressed, particularly regarding cashless gambling.

“While we absolutely welcome a move towards cashless gambling both at Crown and on all poker machines throughout NSW, it is imperative this change is done right. If not, we will be opening up to a potentially massive increase in gambling harm,” Rev Costello said.

“We simply cannot have a situation where we effectively move to ‘tap and go’ gambling without any measures in place to reduce gambling harm.

“Done right, a move to cashless gambling will all but eliminate money laundering via poker machines and casinos, and will also help reduce gambling harm. Done wrong, you may as well set up direct debits to people’s bank accounts and sign over their mortgage to Crown. It could be that dangerous.”

Rev Costello said elements key for a cashless system to not increase gambling harm included:

  1. The system must be linked to verified ID, and to self-exclusion registers 
  2. Low load limits should be in place to ensure people regularly take breaks from gambling, which is an evidence-based circuit breaker for harm
  3. Does not allow the use of credit cards for gambling
  4. Is interoperable with any other cashless system in the state, and should be introduced at Star.

“The Bergin inquiry showed us that money laundering is rife in gambling venues around the country, and that is something that needs to be addressed as a priority across NSW, not just at a possible Crown Barangaroo casino,” Rev Costello said. “Commissioner Bergin’s report recommended consideration of a cashless gambling system, which she called “a powerful mechanism to assist in combating money laundering”.

“Money laundering is connected to so much criminality, from drug dealers cleaning the proceeds of their crimes, through to child pornography, human trafficking and terrorism. But reducing money laundering cannot come at the cost of increased gambling harm.”

Rev Costello welcomed the agreement for Crown to contribute to the costs of the Bergin Inquiry.

“The Bergin Inquiry was a thorough investigation that no doubt cost the people of NSW millions. It’s only right that Crown contribute to the costs given their poor management of anti-money laundering operations and casino junkets in Victoria and Western Australia prompted this inquiry,” he said.

“The results of the Bergin Inquiry are also proving helpful for the Royal Commissions into Crown in both Victoria and WA. The fact three separate inquiries have been done or are underway into Crown says there is a lot to be concerned about with this company. They must be watched like hawks.”

Former Crown gambler and now gambling reform advocate, Anna Bardsley, agreed that the public needed assurance that Crown would always be under intense scrutiny of its operations.

“There are too many instances of people who have lost their families, their livelihoods, their homes because of Crown Casino,” Ms Bardsley said. “They have proven time and again they simply don’t care about the people who gamble there, they just see them, see us, as profit-making machines.

“This casino licence for Barangaroo is a privilege afforded by the people of NSW, not a right. We need assurances that people will be protected from gambling harm, not exploited for Crown profits.”


Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]

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