Craig Laundy has decried the New South Wales Crime Commission’s (NSWCC) main recommendation to move to mandatory cashless gaming in pubs and clubs, and instead makes the argument for facial recognition software.

The NSWCC recently released the findings of its inquiry into whether money laundering was occurring in the state’s pubs and clubs. It found that money used in criminal activity was not being ‘cleaned’ via EGMs in pubs and clubs, however it still recommended that the State Government implement mandatory cashless gaming systems for all the state’s EGMs – both to tackle the use of funds made via criminal proceeds being used in pubs, and as another tool to combat problem gambling.

There has been an outcry from the pub and club industries that the recommendation is extreme and reactionary, echoing the same attitudes that led to the now rescinded lockdown laws. Many within the industry, Laundy included, are arguing for facial recognition technology as the way forward to combat problem gambling.

“This technology allows anyone who has already self-identified as a problem gambler to be immediately identified when they enter a gaming room in any NSW pub or club. No one else is impacted – it just takes human error out of the existing self-exclusion system,” said Laundy.

“This technology is effective, not overly costly and ready to go right now – it has appropriate safeguards in place to protect privacy, and – once again – if you’re not self-excluded you’re not impacted.

“Importantly, it does nothing to punish hundreds of thousands of law-abiding punters who just want a flutter without big brother looking over their shoulders or into their bank accounts.”

Laundy argues that the finding of the report – that criminal proceeds were not being ‘cleaned’ through pub and club gaming rooms – do not justify the recommendation for mandatory cashless gaming, which he found “shocking”.

“This is the type of misguided approach which has resulted in past ‘policy on the run’ failures like the notorious greyhound ban and the lockout laws which made Sydney’s nightlife an international laughing stock for years.

“The Crime Commission found using EGMs to clean dirty money is not widespread, but criminals are putting proceeds of crime through gaming machines. It couldn’t say how much or what else criminals spend their ill-gotten gains on – Boats? Houses? Holidays? Luxury handbags?

“The reports said the crims ‘are known to them’ so why aren’t we targeting them with technology we already have?” questioned Laundy.

The publican argued that facial recognition technology better addressed the issues with problem gamblers and any potential criminal activity.

“With the facial recognition technology we want to introduce, problem gamblers upload an image of themselves either in a venue or online. Then, the licensee of a hotel or the secretary of a club can be alerted immediately via text if a problem gambler enters any gaming room in any licensed club or hotel in NSW.

“Why can’t the police upload pictures of these known criminals onto a centralised database and then the same system will alert the hotel as soon as they enter? This could also be rolled out across the casinos and TAB betting agencies.

“Criminals are actually targeted – not everyone.”

Laundy’s final point is that in the face of the Optus and Medibank leaks, it seems out-of-step to be arguing for a system where every punter has to add their personal details to yet another card.

“Why would anyone want to force law abiding punters to hand over personal data, banking information and details about their personal lives to a government agency in an era of data leaks and digital piracy?

“Why would we risk it all for a system we don’t know will work, when facial recognition could be implemented now and solve the problem without crippling hotels and clubs?

“Our industry provides more than 75,000 direct jobs in NSW, supports thousands of community groups and raises millions for charity.

“For the most part these are not corporations, they are mum and dad hotel operators trying to recover from the impacts of COVID on their businesses. Hotel operators have already struggled for two years and are now being asked to spend big to help big government keep an eye on how their patrons all spend their money.

“This is the type of policy on the run we have seen in NSW before. It is the nanny state mentality that gave us the ill-fated greyhound racing ban and the Kings Cross/CBD lockouts. This is using a steam roller to crack a nut. It is emotion over logic. It just doesn’t pass the pub test.”

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