Police in Yorkshire have been hot on the trail of 400 winning “crack cocaine” tickets after a local drug dealer used the now infamous “crack cocaine of gambling machines” to clean the proceeds of his ill-gotten gains.
Police nailed the West Yorkshire drug dealer after raiding his home and finding £18,000 in cash, £30,000 of designer clothes and – to their surprise – paid betting shop “crack cocaine” tickets with a value of £36,000. The crafty dealer, like those revealed in a Guardian expose in 2013, is believed to have pumped his drug fuelled income into the casino machines known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals or FOBTs, staked on both red and black and cashed out over 400 times, before collecting a ticket that legitimised his wad of cash. So if he was stopped by the police and questioned he could say: “I won it at the bookies ‘guv”.
In a discreet little post on its website, the Gambling Commission revealed their latest failure to “keep crime out of gambling” – one of just three things the regulator was established to do.
It’s not the first time Coral have been implicated in money laundering. Two years ago, the Gambling Commission ordered them to “pay back” £90,000 they had won from a single money launderer who had “gambled” around £900,000 in the bookmakers’ north east shops. And how did Coral treat this customer before they were rebuked? They rewarded him with free trips to the races, of course!
FOBTs have a staking capacity of £300 a minute and offer low margin casino games like roulette, making them a target for criminal gangs. So it’s no surprise that they turnover £13 billion in the most deprived areas of the country. The issue has been consistently reported in the media, but was also raised directly with crime busting Home Secretary Theresa May in September 2013. So far, gambling or money laundering on high stake machines, in deprived, high crime, high unemployment areas just doesn’t seem to concern our new majority Conservative government.
Cracking down on high level, white collar money laundering might appease our EU partners, but £100 a spin machines giving George Osborne a 25% share of the criminal economy look to be safe!
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is lobbying for the maximum stake to be reduced to £2 a spin, which would end high street money laundering.