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Clubs pursue NSW gambling regulator in Federal Court

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The subpoena says ClubsNSW believes Troy Stolz, its former anti-money laundering compliance auditor turned whistleblower, “may have disseminated confidential information” to Liquor and Gaming NSW “contrary to his post-employment restraints”. ClubsNSW was “put on this train of inquiry” after comments made in the upper house by independent MP Justin Field and Mr Tudehope “regarding poker machines and money laundering, which indicate that [Mr Stolz] has been engaging with Liquor and Gaming NSW”.

Mr Stolz is also being sued by ClubsNSW after he gave a confidential ClubsNSW board paper to independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie. The paper, written in May 2019, outlined ClubsNSW’s own concerns about poor levels of money laundering compliance within its 770 member clubs. ClubsNSW employs more than 35,000 people.

ClubsNSW is a significant donor to both sides of politics and was exempt from a ban introduced in 2010, which prevents donations in NSW from liquor and gaming business entities.

Mr Stolz said the February 22 hearing in the Federal Court would make whistleblowers fearful to speak up.

“If ClubsNSW were to be successful in this application in the Federal Court, it certainly would end whistleblowers coming forward to Liquor and Gaming NSW, other agencies, and at all,” Mr Stolz said.

Liquor and Gaming did not wish to comment.

Mr Field said the reputation of the gambling industry “is in tatters after the Crown inquiry and the demonstrated links with organised crime and money laundering”.

“We would never have had a Crown inquiry without whistleblowers who were prepared to come forward with evidence of illegal activities,” he said. “The government should resist vigorously legal tactics by ClubsNSW and protect whistleblowers who are shining a light on illegal activities in the pokies industry in this state.”

Poker machines can be used to wash money because a person can enter a club and put through a significant amount of money in a machine and then cash out most of that sum within a short period of time.

In a statement, ClubsNSW said: “This matter is playing out in court, and we are confident the evidence will support our position.”

The Bergin report included support for a gambling card as a tool to combat money laundering. NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, who is responsible for liquor and gaming, wants gamblers to register for a card that is pre-loaded with money and used similarly to cashless Opal cards on public transport.

However, Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the National Party would never support the idea.

“There’s no justification for the state government to introduce such a massive cost impact on pubs and clubs, or such a privacy invasion on patrons. Any speculation … needs to be quashed immediately,” Mr Barilaro said. “There is no need for consultation or discussion papers.”

A spokeswoman for ClubsNSW said a mandatory gambling card would present considerable unintended consequences for pubs and clubs, which were never the focus of the Bergin inquiry.

“Commissioner Bergin made a passing reference to it in her 800-page report on Crown,” she said, adding that the idea was a “non-starter”.

Mr Dominello did not want to comment on the court hearing but said: “It is important that we maintain a culture where whistleblowers feel safe to come forward with information. This culture must exist in government as well as in organisations”.

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