Nick Xenophon is to resume his fight against organised crime using pokies to launder money.
The SA senator told Neos Kosmos this week he intends to reinstate a bill which he first introduced in 2012 to close a glaring loophole which criminals use to launder large sums of money through poker machines.
His announcement comes as money laundering intelligence agency, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), said there had been a “significant increase” in the number of suspicious activities reported around machines.
Pokie operators are required by law to report payouts over $10,000 to AUSTRAC. Xenophon’s Anti-Money Laundering Amendment (Gaming Machine Venues) Bill 2012 tried to lower the AUSTRAC threshold to $1,000 but failed to gain support from the then Labor government.
Senator Xenophon will use his debating session next Thursday – one of the few he is allotted each year – to bring the bill on for a second reading.
“This is an issue now more than ever, to ensure criminals and drug dealers aren’t laundering money through poker machines,” he said.
“If poker machines are being used as a mechanism to launder funds from criminal activity then surely that’s something the operators should be concerned about.”
Xenophon, who describes the proposed changes as “pragmatic and sensible”, said he was nonplussed at why the powerful poker machine lobby would not support the bill, given the extra administrative burden would be minimal.
“If they’re serious about having zero tolerance for organised crime using poker machines in this way, why won’t they support this legislation?”
Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball has called the reintroduction of the bill as “wasting the time and resources” of federal Parliament.
“This bill reveals Nick Xenophon’s complete ignorance of laws involving poker machines,” Mr Ball said.
“This bill has been rejected by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee for Gambling Reform, and its introduction would only heap further regulatory burdens on clubs, which already have significant anti-money laundering compliance measures in place despite their low risk profile.”
Xenophon described Mr Ball’s statements as “cowardly and desperate remarks by a powerful lobby”.
Meanwhile Adam Masters, an independent researcher with the Transnational Research Institute on Corruption at the ANU, has backed Xenophon’s position, saying that lowering the reporting threshold would “definitely have an effect” on the profitability of money laundering operations while exerting little extra administrative burdens on venues.
Mr Masters said the current limit facilitated the laundering technique called ‘smurfing’, where a number of people are paid several hundred dollars to insert just under $10,000 into a machine, play until they win, and then cash out.
Senator Xenophon, who has long campaigned against pokies, has described state and territory governments – who receive $4 billion in gambling taxes from pokies – as “hopelessly conflicted” over tightening laws affecting the industry.
source: Neos Kosmos