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What goes on behind the private doors of the Diamond Suite at Club Marconi

Loyalty programs give members points when they use their rewards card, qualifying them for privileges such as meal discounts, free drinks, and raffle tickets. Top membership at some clubs may require players to turn over $150,000 per year.

Wesley Mission chief executive and advocate for gambling reform, Stu Cameron, said loyalty programs are incompatible with responsible gambling and should be illegal.

“Loyalty programs for food and drink purchases are one thing, but counting points based on gambling losses for Diamond Tier membership in a rewards program is perverse,” Cameron said. “All this does is encourage gambling, to encourage people to gamble more than they intended, so they can get a few more points for an illusory and volatile reward.”

The exterior of Club Marconi.Credit:Jane Barrett

Stolz, who became a whistleblower after he resigned from ClubsNSW at the end of 2019, believed that clubs should also use data collected by the programs – such as player spend, turnover, wins versus losses and canceled credits – to spot signs of suspicious play. tracks. But monitoring has been patchy, especially at clubs with fewer than 200 machines.

“The average person wouldn’t know [the Diamond Suite] was there,” he said. “These people want to keep their identities under the radar.”

He filed a complaint about Club Marconi with Liquor and Gaming NSW, who investigated last year and reported there was no evidence of non-compliance, although the club agreed to improve signage to its Diamond Suite.

The Vip Game Room At Club Marconi.

The VIP game room at Club Marconi.

AUSTRAC has received 3,000 suspicious case reports from pubs and clubs this year, a 300 per cent increase on previous years, which the agency attributes to its national information campaign.

The NSW Crime Commission found last month that money laundering through poker machines in the state’s clubs and pubs was “widespread and significant” and included both gambling and the laundering of black money. Investigators noticed that some suspected criminals did not use reward cards (which could identify them), so they made arrangements for regular gamblers to pass money through the machines on their behalf, while using their own cards to collect loyalty points.

NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has backed the committee’s recommendation to introduce a mandatory cashless playing card that would track transactions and remove their anonymity, but he has met resistance in Cabinet and Labor has not committed either way. Peak Industry Group Clubs NSW opposes a cashless system, arguing that it would be too costly to implement, among other objections.

Neil Spencer, managing director of Gaming Consultants International, who has been advising the Tasmanian government on the cashless gaming system going live next year, said the technology to track player activity already existed and clubs are using it in their loyalty programmes. The challenge and expense lay in authenticating players’ identities and developing a system to link the data and reconcile transactions between clubs.

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The venues would likely pay a fee to a third-party operator to run the system, the same way they pay a private entity to run the centralized control system that calculates their gambling tax, Spencer said. “It’s an additional cost to a venue operator that doesn’t exist today, and it’s not a revenue grower, it’s a cost.”

The other cost is the loss of revenue.

“The crime commission was concerned about individuals using slot machines to clear money.” Spencer said. “Their recommendations were meant to put up barriers to make that less attractive, so I’m sure they expect, and the government expects, that people who use slot machines for illegal purposes will stop doing so and therefore no revenue will be generated. receive. by the operator or the government that receives tax from it.”

Club Marconi declined to respond to detailed questions, including whether its employees suspected money laundering was taking place on its property before Bittner’s arrest, or whether it had made changes since then.

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Jacky

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