A long-awaited trial for cashless video poker machines (or “pokies”) is set to begin in the coming weeks at Wests Newcastle in New South Wales (NSW), as state officials look for new ways to curb money laundering and other gaming-related infractions.
The trial, which was originally proposed over a year ago, will run for 12 weeks and include a total of 38 machines, whose cashless “digital wallet” technology will be provided by Aristocrat Leisure.
Players’ accounts will require identification verification and must be linked to an Australian-based bank account. The technology is designed to cut back on money laundering while increasing transparency when it comes to problem gaming. Protections will include deposit/loss limits as well as real-time player data that operators can use to snuff out problem behavior.
According to the state’s Hospitality and Racing Minister Kevin Anderson, IGT and Utopia Gaming have also been approved to test cashless systems, and two more applications are currently being reviewed.
Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the trials “will explore different technologies and solutions with the common goal of addressing harm minimization and anti-money laundering.”
Problem gaming advocates have applauded the move, but many want more, faster, due to the 90,000+ machines currently in use around the country.
In NSW specifically, many have said that the regulations themselves are what needs to change—gaming machine credit limits especially so. The state’s limits are as much as US$6,898, which is substantially more than its neighbors; in Victoria, the credit limit is just $690, and Queensland’s is only $69.
The NSW Crime Commission recently published a report in which they outlined a scenario where a bad actor could theoretically deposit a credit limit into a machine, place one minimum bet and cash out the remainder, repeating the process over and over to “wash” dirty money. The commission posited the question of whether NSW’s limits should be “significantly reduced” to avoid these situations.
Rev. Tim Costello, chief advocate at the Alliance for Gambling Reform, told the SMH that cashless systems are needed in order to “break the business model of organized crime.”