Australia’s Financial Crime Watchdog Ready to Clamp Down on Gambling Industry

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Posted on: March 8, 2023, 07:05h. 

Last updated on: March 8, 2023, 12:46h.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the country’s financial crime watchdog, is constantly looking for ways to prevent fraud and money laundering. It has increased its focus on the gaming industry over the past year, and now believes the scope of potential problems in the space warrants even greater attention.

AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose in a public appearance
AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose in a public appearance. Australia’s financial crime watchdog is clamping down on the gambling industry’s AML oversight. (Image: The Chronicle)

Last year, in the wake of anti-money laundering (AML) failures across casinos in Australia, AUSTRAC began taking a closer look at different operators, including Bet365, Sportsbet, and others. While it’s still waiting on the final reports, the entity apparently doesn’t like what it sees so far.

As a result, according to comments it made at the Regulating The Game conference this week, AUSTRAC is creating a new unit to combat AML failures in the gaming space. This is the second such unit for the watchdog, and arrives after AUSTRAC determined that there is “serious non-compliance in a number of businesses.”

A Fresh Focus on AML in Gaming

The Regulating The Game conference is currently taking place at the International Convention & Exhibition Centre in Sydney, Australia. It includes participation by several gaming industry insiders and regulators, including Tabcorp Managing Director and CEO Adam Rytenskild and Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission CEO Annette Kimmitt.

After AUSTRAC uncovered AML concerns at Bet365 and Sportsbet, it determined it needed to increase its focus on the gaming industry. It believes the risk of money laundering in the gaming industry might be on the rise, and the second unit will take a deep dive into the space to look for potential failings.

The watchdog’s assessment follows what it reports to be an increase in suspicious reports in the industry over the past year. AUSTRAC’s Bradley Brown explained that the body sees a greater “risk environment” in the space, but didn’t elaborate.

There are also alleged reports of “billions of dollars” being laundered through slot machines in bars and clubs in states like New South Wales (NSW). At the same time, there exists a discrepancy in those findings, as that would mean virtually every dollar spent was an effort to launder funds.

In the current responsible gambling environment, the mere suggestion of the potential for money laundering is enough to spark concern. As a result, NSW is on track to force cashless gaming into existence, which AUSTRAC said it completely supports.

Leading an International Approach

Groups like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) exist to help prevent money laundering. They draw support from countries around the world to create unified guidelines to increase accountability in the financial space.

AUSTRAC is doing the same and has standing agreements with the US and Canada to combat money laundering. More recently, it added the UK to the list.

Last month, the group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Like with the other agreements, the goal of the new MOUs is to “create a hostile financial environment for organized crime,” according to AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose.

The agreements will facilitate the exchange of information between the groups and lead to the creation of standardized policies. While gaming operators could see changes as a result of the new efforts, they won’t be alone. The MOUs will shape the protocols of all financial transactions, including those conducted between private parties and financial institutions.

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