NSW cashless cards a must: whistleblower

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Gambling whistleblower Troy Stolz hasn't wavered in his determination to take on one of the most powerful lobby groups in NSW, despite battling metastatic cancer.

For eight years he was the head of anti-money laundering with ClubsNSW, before leaving in 2019, leaking an internal report showing more than 90 per cent of gaming venues were not complying with money laundering regulations.

ClubsNSW responded by suing him, claiming breach of confidentiality.

The 53-year-old is now at the forefront of calls to reform the industry, starting with the introduction of mandatory cashless cards.

A damning NSW Crime Commission report released last month found criminals are "funnelling billions of dollars of dirty cash" in the $95 billion put into pokies every year.

The report said money laundering remains an endemic part of the industry because pokies "primarily accept cash and because cash continues to be the primary method by which criminals obtain wealth from dealing in illicit commodities".

Its top recommendation was the introduction of a cashless gaming system.

"Mandatory cashless cards are a must," Mr Stolz told AAP.

"We're enabling these organised criminals to take their money to their local club, clean it and come out with a winning ticket," the whistleblower said.

"Once they (organised criminals) come out with their winning ticket it legitimises the source of the illegal funds. The card will address that."

"It's ludicrous to suggest that while Crown and Star (casinos) are under review ... that organised criminals aren't going to frequent clubs particularly the large clubs."

The NSW casino regulator took the unprecedented step of suspending Star Entertainment's Sydney casino licence as well as slapping it with a record $100 million fine last month, following a scathing inquiry.

The political momentum for a cashless card comes after Premier Dominic Perrottet said he would back the reform.

With around four months until the NSW election, both Labor and the Nationals are resisting calls to make pokies cashless.

"The Nationals, Liberal and Labor have bent over backwards and there's been this threat from the industry whenever there's a stoush," he said.

"What we've got is lopsided. We've got the industry running NSW at the moment and that's not right. They're holding Liberal and Labor to ransom over any sensible gambling reform," Mr Stolz told AAP.

He referred to former minister Victor Dominello losing the gaming portfolio earlier this year after endorsing calls for cashless gaming as an example of the industry's political influence.

"We need the government to stand up to the industry and say it's time to change, you need to be accountable".

Mr Perrottet said he would "work with, not against" the gaming sector who he met with earlier this month following the report's release.

However, ClubsNSW head Josh Landis lambasted the cashless system proposal as a short-sighted measure that does not tackle the root cause of criminal enterprises.

"What's happening is criminals are spending the proceeds of crime (on the pokies). Guess what? They spend on everything from tattoos and handbags to jewellery and jetskis," he told AAP earlier this month.

"They spend it on food and groceries. So do we say that Coles and Woolworths are the recipients of the proceeds of crime? Of course not."

But Mr Stolz says an independent national commission with strong legislative powers was needed.

There are more than 91,000 machines in NSW, according to recent figures published by the gaming regulator.

The average poker machine in NSW is making 25 per cent more than it did three years ago, with some machines raking in $8700 a week.

An analysis of half-yearly data shows pokies profits in pubs and clubs have jumped 20 per cent since early 2019.

The whistleblower remains committed to taking on ClubsNSW through the courts, with two ongoing lawsuits in federal court and a NSW workers' compensation claim, which he says will cost him around $1 million in legal fees.

The oesophageal cancer and bone cancer that has spread to his spine, hip, femur and humerus has beaten his body but not his spirit.

"Cancer might get me but ClubsNSW aren't going to kill me," he said.


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