Looting Registered Clubs

Almost simultaneously with the political controversy over illegal casinos, the press and opposition parliamentarians raised allegations that American and Australian organized crime figures had penetrated Sydney’s licensed clubs. The subject of the only Royal Commission authorized during Premier Robert Askin’s decade in office, these charges provoked the first major inquiry into organized crime activity in Australian history.

New South Wales’ licensed clubs are a social phenomenon without equal in Australia and without parallel anywhere else in the world. Sydney’s clubs are a unique marriage of Australian working-class culture — embodied in mateship, sport, patriotism and beer drinking — and the poker machine. In the wave of prosperity accompanying Australia’s postwar economic growth, Australian workers became affluent for the first time this century and began to join private social clubs, most importantly the Returned Serviceman’s Leagues Clubs. The number of private clubs in New South Wales grew steadily during the first postwar decade, from eighty-five clubs in 1946 to 337 by 1948, and 932 in 1956.

Although first imported into Australia before World War I and locally manufactured after World War II, poker machines were not formally legalized for New South Wales club use until 1956. While poker machines were supposedly banned from public use, N.S.W. police sanctioned their operation in private clubs but barred their introduction into public hotels. In the words of a 1932 Royal Commission into the matter, ‘successive Ministers took the view that club members using these machines were in reality contributing to the support of their own clubs, and that there was no element of private profit for the occupier or owner of the premises’.

During the early 1930s one syndicate managed to place some 200 to 400 poker machines in New South Wales hotels through several schemes involving bribery and kickbacks to members of Premier Jack Lang’s Labor government. As an election drew near and a Labor Party victory seemed a certainty in the mid-1930s, a slot machine syndicate comprised of Lionel L. Smith of Vaucluse, president of Automatic Machines, Ltd, and several investors involved in Queensland slot machine operations, began to seek ways of winning the incoming government’s acquiescence to slot machine concessions in public hotels.

After protracted negotiations, the slot machine syndicate paid £3,000 to Theodore Charles Trautwein, a prominent Sydney hotel owner close to the Labor Party, ‘who was to hand it over to certain people connected with the Trades Hall for party funds’. Trautwein conferred with New South Wales’ Chief Secretary and police on the matter, and two days later machines began appearing in Sydney hotels. When police officers moved to seize the machines, Trautwein stopped them with the explanation that they had the Chief Secretary’s approval, and it was not until a month later that the Attorney General intervened and ordered them removed from both hotels and clubs.

The Chief Secretary reversed the government’s order and allowed the slot machines back into private clubs in March 1931.While there was a hint of corruption about the re-introduction of machines into clubs, the graft involved in their return to hotels was blatant. Faced with declining revenues from the loss of slot machine outlets, Lionel Smith reached an agreement with the N.S.W. Hospital Commission in March 1932 that the government would sanction slot machine operations in the hotels if 45 per cent of takings are paid to the hospitals. Smith himself later claimed that he paid a £1,000 cash bribe to the Secretary of the Hospitals Commission for his approval, and some 10 per cent of turnover was passed on to a senior Labor Party official allegedly for deposit ‘to Labor Party funds’. Within weeks some 200 jackpot machines were transferred from New South Wales clubs or trucked in from Queensland, affixed with the official seal of the N.S.W. Hospital Commission and placed in hotels across the State in clear violation of State law. The intervention of the Hospitals Commission prevented police from seizing the jackpot machines, and they remained in the hotels for some months until the Labor government was turned out of office.

The controversy surrounding the Royal Commission’s investigation into the slot machine scandal in 1932 made their re-introduction into hotels politically impossible for several decades. After World War II the State government continued its unofficial sanction of club poker machines, and to avoid prosecution the newly-established clubs installed machines that used tokens instead of coins and paid jackpots in kind instead of cash.

As the demand increased, Sydney entrepreneurs Sidney Muddle and Roy B. G. Nutt established one of the first Australian slot machine manufacturing companies in 1948, trading under the name Nutt and Muddle and Sons Pty Ltd. The business prospered and competitors entered the manufacturing field. In 1954 territorial rivalries between competing poker machine distributors produced two bombings and in one an automobile belonging to Raymond Smith, a leading distributor, was blown up. Concerned for Smith’s safety amidst repeated threats against his life, N.S.W. police assigned him a personal bodyguard: a police constable named Murray Stewart Riley, then famous as an Olympic oarsman and later known for his alleged involvement in organized crime penetration of the poker machine industry after he quit the police to join Smith’s company.

The major breakthrough in the poker machine and club industries came in 1956 when the New South Wales government was forced to legalize the State’s poker machine operations. In 1954 the State revised the law to provide for more liberal club licensing procedures. As the number of private clubs increased, the hotels association counter-attacked, charging that the clubs were operating poker machines illegally. The State government responded by legalizing poker machines for club use only and establishing a licensing fee. Beginning in September 1956, the State collected licensing taxes ranging from £50 for 5d. machines to £350 for 2s. machines, and paid the money into the N.S.W. Hospital Fund.

The combination of unrestricted licensing and legalization of poker machines produced a sudden and rapid expansion of the ‘club movement’. Poker machine gambling became something of a mania among segments of Sydney working-class communities, giving clubs unprecedented finance for the provision of an exceptional range of leisure services to members. High poker machine profits sparked an almost explosive upward spiral of club growth. In 1957 there were 1,050 clubs in New South Wales with 5,596 poker machines; in 1962 1,285 clubs with 10,084 machines; and in 1967 1,419 clubs with 19,617 machines. Despite some financial problems and the organized crime scandals of the early 1970s, the club movement continued to grow, reaching some 44,000 machines placed in 1,507 private clubs by 1977. The club industry had become the largest private employer in New South Wales with some 32,000 workers, compared to only 15,000 for the State’s largest industrial concern, the iron and coal conglomerate BHP.

In 1976-7 some $4,600 million passed through the State’s poker machines, an amount considerably larger than the entire New South Wales State budget of $3,200 million and Australia’s 1978 national defence budget of $2,300 million. Although Australia spent more per capita on gambling than any other nation in the world in 1976-7, $710 per year versus only $440 in the United States, New South Wales citizens spent almost twice the national average, some $1,221 for each man, woman and child in the State. Of the $6,100 million spent on all forms of legal gambling in New South Wales, four times the Sydney Stock Exchange 1976-7 turnover of $1,568 million, well over half the amount, some $4,600 million, went through the poker machines. Perhaps the most important statistic of all, poker machine turnover was equal to 20 per cent of total household disposable income in N.S.W. In short, the poker machine business became an economic phenomenon without peer on the face of the globe.

By the mid-1960s the private clubs had become a major social institution in New South Wales and effected the very fabric of Sydney working-class life. Of a total state population of only 4 million there were 1.5 million club memberships in 1974. While over a half of New South Wales’ private clubs were small, diverse associations of less than 600 members, some 130 associations had more than 2,000. The giants of the movement were Sydney’s forty League Clubs nominally organized for supporters of the city’s professional rugby football teams. Open in principle to any person who expressed a vague interest in a particular rugby team’s competitive fortunes, the club became in effect a public gaming and entertainment palace. While the Leagues Clubs averaged 10,000 members, the vast South Sydney Junior League Club claimed 53,000 financial members in the early 1970s.

Occupying sprawling premises uniformly decorated in a pseudo-Las Vegas style with garish, spongy carpet and vivid colours, the Leagues clubs maintained free weekly entertainment programmes with top international stars, moderately priced restaurants with excellent meals, sauna baths, sporting facilities and holiday lodges — all for the price of a $10 annual membership fee. Poker machines financed almost all of these facilities, and a number of clubs, including South Sydney Juniors, were known ‘to stop entertainment and keep it stopped until members were informed of an untended machine, one waiting for a client’.

As clubs grew in the 1960s to provide a near-total life support system for their legions of members, churches and community groups mounted a strong challenge to their legitimacy. The first signs of public opposition appeared in 1961 when a group of poker machine addicts in Tamworth formed ‘Poker Machines Anonymous’ on the same principles as Alcoholic Anonymous. Reporting the work of this group, the Labor MLC from Tamworth, Mr C.J. Cahill, sparked a parliamentary debate on the issue by denouncing club poker machine operations as blatant exploitation of their memberships. As profits escalated and the impoverishment of club members mounted, opposition to the machines intensified. In October 1962 the mass circulation Daily Mirror editorialized:

Poker machines have become the greatest social and economical evil of this state. They should never have been legalized. They must be abolished. They are a social evil because they are running the lives of many. They are an economic evil because they divert money from productive to unproductive use.

To what degree of communal insanity have we fallen when we accept with equanimity the disclosure that a junior — mark the word! — football club made a profit last year of £175,000 from poker machines and expects to raise this figure to £260,000 in the next two years! These mechanical gambling monsters are swallowing the whole pay packets of workers in a night. They are plunging decent, honest families into debt. They are an evil without any countervailing merits. They must go.

The move to ‘ban the bandits’ gathered momentum in early 1963 when an independent MLA from Manly, Mr E.D. Darby, introduced a bill into Parliament proposing the gradual abolition of poker machines. As letters of support poured in to Parliament House, Reverend Alan Walker, Superintendent of the Central Methodist Mission, organized a mass meeting on behalf of the bill at Sydney’s Lyceum Theatre with the support of Cardinal Gilroy, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, and Dr H.R. Gough, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. Although over a thousand people attended the meeting, the State Liberal Opposition staged a walkout from the Legislative Assembly when the house divided on the question, leaving Mr Darby the only member to vote in favor of the bill.

While the State government refused to ban the machines, it reduced club profits through the 1960s by increasing poker machine taxes, thereby raising its total gambling revenues by 1976 to 12.2 per cent of State income or $200 million: $89.5 million for poker machines, $73.2 million from all racing, and $39.4 million from various lotteries. The growing dependence on poker machine revenues made it increasingly unlikely that the New South Wales government would ever abolish them.

If the poker machine was the new religion of the Sydney masses, then George Wintle, Secretary-Manager of South Sydney Junior League Club, was its prophet. The architect of South Sydney’s rapid rise as the largest club in Sydney, Wintle, a crew-cut clerk of medium height and wrinkled grin, was the club movement’s poker machine missionary. Responding to the criticisms of Reverend Walker, Archbishop Gilroy and Archbishop Gough during the 1963 poker machine debate, Wintle wrote his club members: ‘Sure, some people may do their weekly wages. Sure, some people may be compulsive gamblers, as Mr Walker says. But we also have people with a mental obsession to religion, we also have people who are compulsive church-attenders, compulsive Bible-readers, compulsive attenders at rallies. The Catholic Church, and I make no apologies, has received millions from housie-housie, raffles, silver circles, etc. The Church of England is a big absentee landlord and in Sydney has the best land and is getting the best rents.’

Remaining a small club of local football enthusiasts, South Sydney Juniors did not begin its rapid expansion until 1956 when the N.S.W. government legalized poker machine operations. With only 246 members in 1957, the club acquired a lease on a permanent site fronting Anzac Parade in Kingsford, an area close to Randwick Racecourse with a local population accustomed to regular gambling.

Opened for business in December 1959, South Sydney Juniors’ new clubhouse was a massive, mausoleum-like structure that squatted heavily on Anzac Parade. As did no other club manager, Wintle understood the economic potential of poker machines and built his club around them. Beginning in 1959 with only eight machines and ‘horribly in debt’, South Sydney Juniors had acquired forty machines two years later, attracted 1,700 members, and had 500 people on the waiting list.

Earning £105,000 from poker machines in 1960, George Wintle launched a campaign to increase club poker machine patronage which attracted considerable and unfavourable publicity. In his annual report Wintle wrote: ‘It will always be club policy to treat those who play our poker machines as honoured guests and always extend them VIP treatment’. Those ‘erring’ members who failed to play the bandits were to be warned: ‘Education being such a wonderful thing we will keep plugging along to bring these people into the fold’. Responding to Wintle’s provocative statements, Reverend Alan Walker declared: ‘Poker machines are one of the most blatant pieces of exploitation ever loosed on a nation. The community should be grateful to Mr Wintle for showing us the real situation. Clubs are building into great centres of financial power which will eventually thumb their noses at the government.’

South Sydney Juniors overtook its rivals in 1961 when its 3,300 members and ninety-three poker machines provided the club with a gambling profit of £175,000. Seeking an end to its outlaw image, South Sydney made £15,000 in contributions to scholarship funds at Sydney and New South Wales Universities, donated £700 worth of reference books to local high schools, guaranteed a £10,000 contribution to Prince Henry Hospital for an open heart surgery unit, and opened its kitchens to ‘Meals on Wheels’ which delivered hot food to the needy in the district. Battling government tax collectors who aspired to every larger shares of club revenues, Wintle brought his poker machines up to an establishment force of 111 and earned a record of £281,215 gaming profits in 1963 which he used to finance a lavish range of recreational facilities.

The club’s spectacular profits and George Wintle’s pugnacious prose made South Sydney Juniors the most controversial club in the State. His habit of announcing the club’s annual total for poker machine profits always aroused considerable comment from a press stunned by their proportions. When Wintle announced a poker machine turnover of £1,147,000 in the first nine months of the 1964 fiscal year, the Daily Mirror noted that the average annual expenditure by each member was £127 and asked if that money had not come from families’ ‘housekeeping’. Federal tax inspectors began auditing the clubs to tax revenues from non-members and South Sydney Juniors was billed for $30,000, by far the largest of any city club. Evidently deciding that it could little afford such a controversial secretary-manager, the club dismissed Wintle in early 1966. Claiming that he was ‘clean as a whistle’, Wintle registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service.

Refusing to relinquish his hard-won empire, George Wintle allied himself with the clubs’ affiliated junior football clubs and organized a ‘football ticket’ headed by a Redfern barber named Walter Dean to contest the December 1966 board elections. Through Wintle’s contacts and organizational skills, the ‘football ticket’ won the election and Wally Dean became president of South Sydney Juniors. The new board of directors re-hired George Wintle as Secretary-Manager but he ‘resigned’ after only three months in office for reasons that were never explained. With the removal of ‘Mr Poker Machines’ in early 1967, the Wintle era at South Sydney Juniors came to an end.

It is clear that Wintle’s removal from the club allowed the faction associated with Dean to consolidate its control. The new board chose one of its members, Darcy F. Lawler, Secretary-Manager and he remained in office throughout the decade of Dean’s incumbency as president. During this Dean decade, South Sydney Juniors continued its rapid growth, experienced ever higher poker machine turnovers, and achieved a membership total of 53,000, making it by far the largest club in Australia.

While George Wintle had always proudly proclaimed his resistance against ‘the people who tried to stand over me’, Wally Dean pursued a markedly different policy typified by his decision to hire Murray Riley, known for his connections with leading criminals and standover men, as the club’s poker machine supervisor. Reflecting on Dean’s management in 1974, Mr Justice Moffitt stated: ‘To take merely the example of Dean and the SSJ, there has been disclosed what appears to be criminal conduct of Dean, obviously with the co-operation of others, . . . in exacting by virtue of his office, in predatory fashion, and, by devious and grossly improper methods, money from SSJ and other clubs’. Of Dean’s highly paid club ‘security officer’, Murray Riley, the Justice said:

The pattern of activity of Riley within the three clubs has at least one important aspect in common with the U.S. gangster patterns in the Las Vegas and London clubs.

In all three clubs, he participated in and acted in organizing the skimming — by illicit means and shams — of monies from the clubs. Particularly in the early years of Las Vegas, the gangster, without office, gave directions concerning club officials and operations and skimmed profits from clubs.

Wally Dean’s rise is illustrative of the enormous financial power the club movement had accumulated. Employed in his own barber shop where he occasionally cut the hair of Leonard McPherson, Dean became involved in the club through his position as president of the South Sydney Junior Football League. He became a member of the club in 1965 and shortly thereafter launched an eighteen month campaign to install his own faction as directors. Since the licensed club’s charter required that four of its seven directors must be members of the junior football league committee, Dean’s position as league president was a natural springboard to control over the club. After what Dean himself described as ‘quite a fight’, he and three allies were elected to the club’s board of directors in late 1966, constituting a working majority which then elected Dean president.

During his ten years in office Dean faced only two opposition slates in the annual elections for the club’s board of directors. The first challenge occurred in 1968 and was marked by an incident of alleged intimidation. According to a complaint lodged with police by George Wintle, he had been in the Aurora Hotel on Elizabeth Street when he was confronted by Wally Dean, a club employee and a man incorrectly identified as Dean’s brother: ‘Dean had attempted to promote a fight between himself and Wintle by using indecent language and making insulting remarks to Mrs Wintle. Wintle also claimed that at the time Dean’s brother was armed with a pistol.’

But George Wintle was not the only candidate to encounter violence during his campaign at Souths. Mr John A. Willis, a sign painter and local league enthusiast, stood for the board of directors and began receiving ‘anonymous phone calls particularly at work from a number of different persons who made threats and used obscene language to the effect that if I continued with the election campaign I would receive serious physical injury’. One night at 1.30 a.m. someone hurled a petrol bomb into Willis’ garage and several days later another anonymous caller warned: ‘If you continue with the election you will get worse than a petrol bomb’. Willis distributed printed leaflets in support of his campaign and someone threw a brick through the window of the print shop that had done the work.

Charles ‘Chicka’ Reeves arrested for murder of William McCarthy, Sydney, March 1957 (News Ltd.)

Abraham Saffron poses for the press at his Sydney nightclub, January 1951 (Fairfax)

Leonard McPherson outside his Sydney home in October 1978 and at a Sydney airport press conference with associate Stanley John Smith after arrival from Hong Kong, July 1966 (Fairfax)

Top, South Sydney Junior League Club: Manager George Wintle in 1963 and his rival Walter Dean toasts his re-election in 1974 (News Ltd.)

Above, the Casino Room at South Sydney in 1974 (Fairfax)

The World of Percival Galea, Gambler: Above, Cardinal Gilroy, Perc Galea and Sir Robert Menzies at the Australia Hotel, June 1974 (News Ltd.)

Right, Perc Galea’s illegal casino, the Forbes Club, Sydney, 1973 (Fairfax)

Far right top, Jockey Athol Mulley, son Bruce Galea, and Perc Galea, Rosehill Races, 1963 (News Ltd.)

Far right, Home of Bruce Galea at Yowie Bay, New South Wales, later sold to George Freeman (News Ltd)

Above, New South Wales Police Constables Murray Riley (left) and Mervyn Wood (right) signing autographs after winning the gold medal for Australia in the double sculls, 1950 Commonwealth Games (Fairfax)

Below left, Murray Riley in handcuffs appearing at Sydney’s Phillip Street Courts for organizing the largest drug shipment in Australia’s history, July 1978 (News Ltd.)

Below right, New South Wales Police Commissioner Mervyn Wood at a Police funeral, May 1977 (Fairfax)

After the 1968 club elections, Dean formed ‘some kind of partnership’ with Murray Riley to ‘skim’ money from South Sydney Juniors and other clubs. As Mr Justice Moffitt put it: ‘. . . it is clear Dean and Riley are engaged in a process of extracting monies from such registered clubs as they are able to enter’. While the affable Dean won the ‘partnership’ club offices, Riley did the heavy work.

Born in 1925 and raised in Sydney’s Abbotsford area, Murray Stewart Riley graduated from public schools with an intermediate certificate and joined the N.S.W. police in December 1943. Promoted rapidly to detective, Riley spent most of his career in Sydney on varied assignments and worked for some months as a police bodyguard to poker machine manufacturer Raymond Smith. He represented Australia at three Commonwealth Games and two Olympic Games in the double sculling events with the future N.S.W. Police Commission Mervyn Wood as his partner. The Wood-Riley combination won the gold at the 1950 and 1954 Commonwealth Games and earned a bronze medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. After being convicted of ‘taking a communication to a person in gaol’ at an internal police hearing, Riley was demoted to uniformed duties and resigned from the police in February 1962.

Shortly after his resignation, Riley joined Raymond Smith’s poker machine company as sales manager dealing largely with private clubs and remained in that job until 1971. Mr Justice Moffitt found that: ‘While a detective he [Riley] was in the area in which [Leonard] McPherson lived and drank and, at least in the course of his duty, came into communication with McPherson. McPherson was an associate of one Raymond Smith, a man with a substantial dossier of criminal activity.’ In March 1966 Riley was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment in New Zealand for ‘attempted bribery of a police inspector’. Apparently acting on behalf of Sydney criminals, he had gone to New Zealand to secure the release of some Australians in police custody on charges of fraud and offered an inspector $1,000 to secure their release on bail. As Mr Justice Moffitt noted: ‘This crime has the elements of serious American-style organized crime’.

Using Wally Dean’s position at South Sydney Juniors and two other registered Sydney clubs, the Riley-Dean partnership developed a chain of companies providing specialized services to licensed clubs, either at grossly inflated prices or to conceal payments that were little more than ‘kick-backs’. In his final report Mr Justice Moffitt condemned these operations: ‘Within SSJ, by devious means, Dean used his position as president . . . to receive monies from persons with contracts with the club. In evidence he made many concessions, which demonstrated, in analysis, exploitation of the club and abuse of his position.’

Through his dominance of SSJ’s board Wally Dean held a virtual veto over service contracts and used his position, as Mr Justice Moffitt explained, to award much of the work to a network of at least six inter-locking companies in which he held some interests. An independent cleaning company, Coronet Carpet Company Pty Ltd, which held a $3,500 per week contract with the club, made regular payments to Wally Dean for his services as a ‘public relations officer’. The Royal Commission found that ‘Dean’s duties were a sham and the weekly payments a “kick-back” dishonestly extracted’. Similarly, Wally Dean, in the corporate persona of M and D Sports Hiring Service, purchased a boxing ring for $1,500, leased it to the club over a three year period in which rental income exceeded purchase price, and then sold it to the club for $3,000.

These transactions were relatively small compared to the services that Wally Dean arranged through three other companies all operated by a close associate named William Charles Garfield Sinclair. An overweight, greying entrepreneur then in his mid-fifties, Sinclair had once served two years as a Woollahra Council alderman. Then known largely for his Labor Party contacts and his ability to form short-lived, small corporations, Sinclair later gained considerable notoriety in October 1978 when he was arrested with Sydney footballer Paul Hayward in Bangkok and charged with financing the export of 8.4 kilograms of pure heroin to Australia.In October 1968 Sinclair, ‘the moving force’ behind Kays Constructions Pty Ltd, hired Dean as a consultant and paid him a regular salary to solicit contracts for the company until May 1969. According to his own testimony, Dean earned his salary by signing Kays Constructions a number of small jobs such as a $12,000 renovation of the Coogee Sports Club. After Sinclair joined South Sydney Juniors, Dean awarded Kays Constructions a $318,562 contract for major renovations without competitive bidding.

While Kays Constructions carried out club renovations, another Sinclair-Dean company, Aesthetic Arts Pty Ltd, provided props and sets for South Sydney Junior’s entertainment programmes. Established in November 1969 with Sinclair as director, the company earned a variety of fees from the club such as $5,500 for ‘supplying and installing decorations’ in December 1970. Even after Sinclair quit the company, Aesthetic Arts continued to do 90 per cent of its business with South Sydney Juniors and Dean continued to control the company through his father, fiancee and his cousin Green. Finally, another Sinclair company, Tracey Burns Pty Ltd, in which Dean also had interests, supplied the club with ‘fancy goods’ on contract.

Although Murray Riley had some affiliation with Aesthetic Arts, Pty Ltd, which earned him $150 per week, his main business association with Dean was conducted through a poker machine marketing company called Garson Enterprises Pty Ltd. Founded by one Phillip Gardiner in 1963, Garson’s business was flagging until March 1970 when Dean joined the firm as a director and was given two shares of company stock. Riley resigned from Raymond Smith’s poker machine company a year later, and Dean then transferred all of Garson’s interests to Riley who then joined the company as a ‘consultant’, a position which earned him $6,000 in a few months. Garson also paid Dean a $3,000 bonus and, through a bit of bookeeping legerdemain, awarded him $10,000 for a debt that it had notionally contracted. Through Garson, Dean sold some eighty poker machines to clubs with which he and Riley were associated, collecting a commission of $16,000. At South Sydney Juniors, Dean awarded Garson a $35,094 to furnish the club’s ‘Sky Room’ without competitive bidding and the company’s books showed expenses of only $17,640.

Dean and Riley also became involved in two smaller private clubs and, ‘in predatory fashion and by devices and grossly improper methods’ raided their assets. Resigning his post at the Mariners Club in October 1970 after he sold it twenty machines at a commission of $4,000, Dean was appointed secretary of the Associated Motor Club that same month, largely through Riley’s influence. While Riley earned $200 per week as ‘social director’ Dean received $150 per week as secretary, a vacation bonus of $375 and $12,000 in commissions on the sixty new poker machines he sold to the club. Remaining at the Motor Club for only eight months, Dean, Riley and their associates suddenly resigned en masse in May 1971. Mr Justice Moffitt later wrote: ‘There is little doubt that Riley and Dean raided this [Motor Club] and took what they could. It is said that they went there to help the club, because it was in financial difficulties. Their conduct shows they had no regard for those difficulties.’

These ventures were dwarfed by the income Murray Riley and his partners earned from the lucrative entertainment booking business. Competing with each other for the city’s profitable ‘guest’ patronage business, Sydney’s leading Leagues Clubs spent vast sums on lavish entertainment programmes. South Sydney Juniors had one of the largest entertainment budgets, totalling some $770,000 in 1970 and $945,000 in 1971. The club had retained its own booking agent, Mr Richard Gray, until August 1971 when he was involved in an after-hours brawl with Dean, Riley, and Riley’s business partner Lionel Abrahams. Gray emerged from the fight with severe injuries and his dismissal as the club’s booking agent.Not surprisingly, South Sydney Juniors then hired Lionel Abrahams as its booking agent, a Sydney businessman whom Mr Justice Moffitt described as a ‘calculating cheat, prepared to go to any degree of falsification to procure dishonest ends’.

With little entertainment experience to recommend him, Abrahams was a partner with Murray Riley in a booking agency called Arcadia Top Artists which they had established in 1970 with a total issued capital of only $4. Arcadia Top Artists won a virtual monopoly on agency work for the club and Riley made over $50,000 a year as his share of profits. As Mr Justice Moffitt observed, ‘it is almost impossible to think Dean would go unrewarded in respect of these vast payments’. While Dean himself held no official position at Arcadia Top Artists, his future wife Carol was temporarily employed there and Aesthetic Arts Pty Ltd did considerable business in connection with shows staged by Top Artists at South Sydney Juniors.

In addition to these ventures with Dean, Murray Riley was active inside South Sydney Juniors on his own behalf. Appointed poker machines supervisor by Dean, Riley was allowed to nominate a number of assistants whose ‘sham’ wages were then paid directly to Riley. Riley apparently tried to use bribery and union infiltration to solve the club’s industrial disputes. In a statement before the Royal Commission, John J. Morris, Secretary of the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees’ Union, stated that the union’s South Sydney Juniors shop had launched a two day stop-work action to protest dismissals of three employees during the period 15-17 November 1970. Contacted by Riley through an intermediary to discuss the union’s demands, Morris met the club’s security officer for lunch at the Motor Club. Riley reportedly said: ‘Mr Dean is concerned about the dispute and he is over in Las Vegas. Wally Dean told me to say that there would be $1,000 for you to give to any charity you felt you so desired, so long as there were no stoppages until Wally Dean returns.’ Morris stood up and left the table.

In 1972 and 1973, Riley made formal applications to join the Liquor Employees Union, but Morris rejected his overtures. Morris contacted the police but was told by Detective Sergeant Jack McNeil: ‘He [Riley] is a man of courage and he has represented Australia at the Olympic Games’. Morris dropped the matter. In his report, Mr Justice Moffitt said: ‘I think there is strong prima facie evidence against Riley, [that] provides further indication of Riley’s involvement in organized crime’.


from Drug Traffic by Alfred McCoy