- »Wilkie Seeks to Make Gambling Businesses Accountable
Wilkie Seeks to Make Gambling Businesses Accountable
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie is known for introducing gambling bills that increase the accountability for gambling business operators. He is doing it again, this time with his legislation called “Making Gambling Businesses Accountable.”
Essentially, the bill in the Australian Parliament will serve as an amendment to Australia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act. Wilkie wants businesses to take responsibility for allowing people to gamble with stolen money, which often happens in problem gambling and addiction cases.
Accountability for Gambling Businesses
Wilkie introduced the Making Gambling Businesses Accountable bill in Parliament on October 25.
“This bill will ensure that gambling entities are more accountable and also prevent them profiting from illegal behaviour. The bill amends relevant legislation to put a positive obligation on gambling companies to report to AUSTRAC if they have reason to suspect a person is paying for a gambling service with money they obtained illegally.
“Where a gambler has paid for a gambling service using funds they obtained illegally, the bill enables the federal court to order the gambling company to compensate the injured party for damage or loss suffered. This will prevent gambling companies from profiting off the misfortune of others and facilitate a remedy for the victim of the original theft.”
Center Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie seconded the bill.
Incentive from a Gambling Addict
Wilkie worked with Gavin Fineff on the legislation.
Fineff is a citizen who worked as a financial advisor before his gambling addiction led to his gambling away of $8.4 million of his clients’ money (along his own money and that of family members) over a period of five years. Wilkie claimed that Fineff was targeted by three online gambling agencies – Tabcorp, Ladbrokes, and BetEasy.
While Fineff took responsibility for his actions, he (and Wilkie) also believed that the gambling businesses that took his increasingly large bets without question should have been held responsible as well.
Instead of gambling companies questioning Fineff’s suddenly large bets, they promoted him to VIP status with many perks. When Fineff started losing substantial amounts of money, Tabcorp offered no support. Rather, they encouraged him to gamble more. By the time Tabcorp asked Fineff for proof of income, he had lost almost $4 million.
While Tabcorp froze Fineff’s account, Ladbrokes contacted him with incentives to play. Even when Fineff informed Ladbrokes of his frozen account with Tabcorp, Ladbrokes established an account for him under a different name. He lost $700,000 in 20 months with Ladbrokes.
BetEasy also incentivized Fineff to play on its site with $50,000 in bonus bets, which Fineff proceeded to lose in 45 minutes. The man then lost $3.6 million in the next 16 months.
Adding to Existing Legislation
As mentioned, Wilkie’s bill would serve as an amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act of 2006. Its original intent was to detect, deter, and disrupt money laundering, along with the financing of terrorism and other serious financial crimes.
The law targets money laundering and similar crimes in a wide range of industries, but gambling is specifically included. Definitions of its application are available in Table 3 of the “designated services” section.
Entities report to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) regarding all suspicious matters and transactions above specified amounts. AUSTRAC is pointedly responsible for all detecting, deterring, and disrupting all criminal abuses to the financial system by organized crime forces.
The regulator and financial intelligence agency of AUSTRAC focuses greatly on money laundering and other financial crimes. However, an increasing number of financially-based crimes stem from gambling addictions. This puts AUSTRAC directly in line with Wilkie’s legislation and the enforcement provisions therein.
More Responsibility for Gambling-Related Fraud
AUSTRAC already tracks gambling-related financial crimes, including ones connected to gambling addiction.
In July 2019, AUSTRAC issued guidance for companies to assist in detecting behaviours related to gambling addictions. The regulator noted several signs for which financial institutions to watch:
- High-volume account activity of domestic transfers up to $500,000
- Use of false identification to obtain funds
- Depositing cheques of up to $500,000 in personal accounts
- Requests to settle loans via cheques issued under false names
- Repeated ATM withdrawals after a cheque clears and down to a zero balance
- Transactions inconsistent with customer profile
- Bank accounts in multiple Australian states
- High-value gaming activity with no threshold transactions
Wilkie’s bill aims to expand the responsibilities of AUSTRAC to issue criminal penalties for gambling companies that accept stolen money, no matter when the money is discovered to be stolen. The regulator will hold companies responsible for returning stolen money to victims and paying penalties.
This aims to incentivize gambling operators to refrain from targeting customers for high-dollar transactions without ensuring the customers aren’t seeking gambling out of addiction. In addition, Wilkie hopes that operators will implement more steps to detect gambling harm in customers and address that harm.