Crown Melbourne has received an alarming $30 million fine for allowing their gamblers to cash bank cheques made out to themselves, which has been cited as exacerbating gambling harm and exponentially increasing the risk of aiding “criminal infiltration by money launderers”.
The gambling giant has been found out by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) to have allowed punters to use bank cheques addressed to themselves to purchase gambling chips at their Southbank casino, issuing the chips before the client’s cheques had even cleared.
This was quite standard of a practice from 1994 up until 2021, when it was subject to prohibition. In that time the VGCCC has loosely estimated that $1.5 billion was spent with the use of cheques.
Payment processing in relation to gambling activities is heavily regulated throughout Australia. This extends even further than cheques as Star Entertainment found out when they plead guilty to 7 separate counts for authorisation of numerous credit card payments in exchange for gambling chips earlier this year.
Crown’s fine comes during a very precarious time for the casino mammoth, as the royal commission, not too long ago, found that the casino operator was not fit to possess a license. The company was then privately acquired and given until the end of the year to prove it is fit to operate the casino.
This legislation is in place to regulate casino’s against a few factors of great significance. These being the protection of the public from gambling addiction and its harms along with a plethora of money laundering and fraud risks which have been proven to be rife in casino’s over the course of the 20th century.
Australia’s regulatory bodies have shown great concern regarding all 3 of these factors of late, with numerous actions and regulatory impositions being instigated just this year. Such as inaugurating a new AUSTRAC unit to mitigate risk specifically related to money laundering.
Crown Melbourne themselves it would appear have been the subject to a particular scrutiny, with numerous fines coming from multiple regulatory bodies, including a fine of more than $1 billion from AUSTRAC themselves, and a $120 million by the Commission for responsible gambling breaches just last year.
Along with this, Crown Melbourne have also been instructed to enforce strict time limits on how much and long gamblers can gamble on their premises and how long until a client can return to gamble.
The VGCCC is also pursuing the case further although they have not been able to substantiate their suspicions of blank cheque issuance in the same instances aforementioned. They have in any case stated that they have directed Crown Melbourne to immediately discontinue the use of cheques wholly.
Crown has claimed that they are reviewing and reforming their practices substantially, with a spokesperson giving this statement on their behalf:
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.
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