Sydney Star Casino ATM mistake causes millions of dollars to be handed out to Aussies for free: Here’s how it all went wrong

A malfunction caused four ATMs at Sydney’s Star Casino to hand out over $3.2million in free cash to those in the know over a two-week period.

Word quickly spread among gamblers, criminals and even homeless people that cash was being dispensed freely from the ‘ticket in, cash out’ machines – with 43 people taking advantage of the bonanza.

In total the machines dispensed $3,219,420 over 13 days. 

A software glitch occurred in machines that pay out tickets with barcodes showing  gambling winnings.

Gamblers discovered if they fed in more than one ticket, all of them would be paid out but only a single docket would be kept by the machine. The others were spat back out, allowing them to be redeemed multiple times. 

An inquiry has heard how a malfunction caused four ATMs at The Star casino in Sydney to hand out free cash

READ MORE: Illegal Melbourne casino for high-end rollers busted in Truganina with police alleging it is linked to organised crime


The lure of the free cash even caused one recovering gaming addict to relapse.

Thanh Lan Le told the Sydney Morning Herald that she had spent eight months away from her destructive habit when a friend’s boyfriend showed her how the machines were handing out the cash.

She spent the next 10 days milking the ATMs, using them 34 times to take out $57,265 and then spending all but $5,000 of that at the casino.

‘I was in this trance,’ she said. 

‘I’m really annoyed with myself. All that work I’d done with my psychologist was out the window.’ 

Twice she fell asleep at pokie machines and was offered a room in the casino’s hotel by staff, which she accepted and paid out of the money taken from the ATMs.

After the fault in the machines was detected, Le and others who had taken advantage of the situation were reported to police.

Le pleaded guilty to a single charge of  obtaining property by deception and offered to repay the money.

The ATMs were 'ticket in, cash out' machines that allow punters to redeem their winnings

The ATMs were ‘ticket in, cash out’ machines that allow punters to redeem their winnings 

‘I understand it was my fault,’ she said. 

‘I had deceivingly taken it, but the machine was giving us money.’

Le’s solicitor, Natalija Nikolic of XD Law, argued The Star could have stopped the rort dead in its tracks by reconciling tickets and payouts daily as it should under anti-money laundering provisions.

‘They run a system that seems to pay little regard to the licence standard expected of them,’ Nikolic said.

‘They were giving away $3 million and didn’t even notice – a system so evidently lax that it is a honeypot for money launderers. In our view the worst offending in this whole scenario could be laid at the feet of Star for these negligent breaches.’

One of those charged with gaining money deceptively, Troy Manning, is in jail awaiting trial on charges of fraud, participating in a criminal group, and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime. 

The Star special manager Nick Weeks told this week’s inquiry by the NSW Independent Casino Commission that allowing these false payouts to continue for days was ‘a very significant failure across a large number of people and teams’.

He revealed the ATMs were actually faulty for six weeks but it was only during the last fortnight that gamblers discovered this. 

The inquiry also heard that The Star’s head of investor relations Giovanni Rizzo allegedly asked the chief financial officer to hide the loss when presenting half-year results in February but she refused.

The ATMs were faulty for six weeks but the fault was only discovered by gamblers for two weeks before the casino also twigged

The ATMs were faulty for six weeks but the fault was only discovered by gamblers for two weeks before the casino also twigged

Former ClubsNSW anti-money laundering compliance manager Troy Stolz, who was an expert witness, said venues that operate ‘ticket in, cash out’ machines were required to closely monitor how they were being used.

‘This also raises questions around the robustness/effectiveness of the Star Casino’s AML/CTF [anti-money laundering/counterterrorism financing] program,’ he said in a letter addressed to the presiding magistrate.

Star declined to comment on the matter saying that it would be inappropriate to do so as it was before the courts.