Crown Casino fined $30 million by the Australian gambling watchdog
Crown Casino has been issued a $30 million fine for violating problem gambling and money laundering regulations and allowing gamblers in Melbourne to deposit bank cheques made out to themselves.
The fine was issued by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commision (VGCCC), which also claimed that Victoria’s 2021 royal commission into Crown Casino discovered that the gambling giant allowed punters to gamble at its Southbank casino with uncleared bank checks.
Under state laws, casinos are authorised to accept cheques only on certain occasions. Their use is strictly controlled to prevent potential issues like money laundering and fraud.
The VGCCC stated that the Crown’s “serious contravention” was an undocumented practise that undermined controls. Casinos are required to document all their practises to properly inform the regulator of their activities.
In a statement on Thursday, VGCCC chair Fran Thron revealed that the commission would delve even further into Crown’s practises to ensure no more regulations were flouted.
“This is the second time we’ve taken action on undocumented practises at the casino, and we will investigate further to ensure there are no more. To be clear, we will not allow the casino to conceal its practises to avoid scrutiny,” Thorn said.
“Practises like accepting bank cheques expose Crown to the risk of money laundering, put patrons at risk of gambling harm, and compromise our ability to ensure the casino runs with integrity, safety, and fairness.”
The regulator discovered that between 1994 and 2021, when Crown allowed gamblers to use bank cheques in exchange for gambling chips, over $1.5 billion worth of checks may have exchanged hands.
In one case, long-time gambler Ahmed Hasna, who was a frequent customer of the Southbank casino between 1993 and 2019, gave a cheque for $100,000 to Crown in exchange for gambling chips. Before the cheque was cleared, the gambling firm honoured it by giving Mr. Hasna $100,000 worth of chips.
It was eventually discovered that the cheque bounced. To recover its gambling chips provided on credit, Crown reportedly told Mr Hasna, who was suffering financial hardship and gambling addiction at the time, that he could continue gambling at the casino.
The punter was also allowed to retain his highest-tier black card privileges as long as the $100,000 debt was repaid from future winnings.
Although the VGCCC could not build up suspicions about Crown’s use of blank cheques, the regulator has ordered the company to ban bank cheque and blank check practises. Crown’s policies are surrounding bank cheques also under review, as are policies concerning other undocumented activities in the Melbourne gambling venue.
A spokesperson for Crown Resorts stated that they had accepted the fine and intended to work with the regulator and Victorian government to deal with this and other issues discovered by the Royal Commission.
“These practises have ceased, and we have implemented significant improvements to reduce and prevent risk across our business,” they said.
“Under new ownership and leadership, our Future Crown program is driving whole-of-company reform as we continue to uplift our culture and build a Crown that exceeds the expectations of our stakeholders and the community.”
This is the third time Crown Casino has been issued a monetary penalty following the royal commission’s discovery that the company was unsuitable to hold a gambling licence. It was given two years to prove its suitability.